Colorado’s Deadliest Floods Hardcover – September

Colorado’s Deadliest Floods Hardcover – September

Welcome to my new blog! I’d like to start by introducing my book, Colorado’s Deadliest Floods, a collection of stories on some of the most damaging floods in Colorado history. When I first started researching Colorado’s Deadliest Floods, I was surprised by my emotional reaction to the stories included in this book. At times, it was difficult to write. Having witnessed firsthand three of these floods—the 1976 Big Thompson Flood; the 1997 Spring Creek Flood; and the 2013 Front Range Flood—I was familiar with the helpless, frustrating, fearful feeling that comes with flash floods and all natural disasters, which are always unpredictable. We can speculate, but cannot predict with 100% accuracy when a disaster will strike next. As for flash floods, they can happen at any time and anywhere there is water, which includes most of the planet.

Considering the looming impacts of climate change and steadily increasing populations, we can expect and anticipate more deadly floods in the future in the areas discussed in the book and more, but we cannot know for certain their exact size or cost in lives and damages. Residents and the Colorado government have invested hard work and a great deal of money to mitigate future floods, but the storms will continue, the floods will continue, and the destructive effects of flash flooding will always be present in the State of Colorado.

In my lifetime I have lived in 40 houses and apartments in seven states, averaging one move every 1 ½ years since the day I was born. I have endured small floods, like when the pipes broke in the apartment above mine and many of the vintage books in my collection were destroyed. These were priceless to me as they were gifts from an elderly neighbor who was my childhood friend. Nevertheless, I know that I could never begin to understand the pain, anguish and fear endured by the people trapped in flooding in Colorado. When my apartment flooded, I simply had to clean up the mess. When my finances changed, when I graduated from college, when I experienced a divorce, I simply packed my bags and moved on to another destination. It’s not the same as losing everything in a natural disaster. I had more books, clothing, furniture. My family and friends were safe.

Experiencing a flash flood is something different altogether. There is often no warning and no time to prepare, and when it’s over, no personal belongings to pack. The mold on the walls, water damage to furniture, clothing, dishes, rugs–everything is contaminated with chemicals from the flood water. Then there is the loss of life, the loss of friends and family. The word “loss” means nothing. There are no words to explain or express the pain of loss of family, friends and neighbors in a natural disaster.

What can be done? What can we do differently? Many of the necessary precautions are already in place, including signs instructing residents, vacationers, and hikers to climb to higher ground in case of floods. You would think this would be instinctive. Quite the opposite. Instincts tell us to seek shelter, not to step out into the rain and climb a muddy, rocky mountain. And what is the most logical, and yet illogical, shelter? Our vehicles. Humans feel a connection to their vehicles that is both fascinating and deadly. We eat in our trucks and cars, listen to the news or recorded books, talk to family and friends. Some people even shave or put on makeup. Our vehicles have become psychological representations of the security and safety of home.
The discussion on mitigating losses from natural disasters must be all-inclusive, from insurance coverage to governmental emergency response.

Hopefully, as more people read and learn about the devastating effects of these disasters we will be able to respond more successfully as communities when the next one comes. When the next one comes—it sounds melodramatic, but it is true. When discussing natural disasters on our ever-changing planet, there will always be a next time.

Ranked among the top ten states for both disasters and dry climate, Colorado has a long history of extreme weather. On May 19, 1864, residents of the fledgling gold rush town of Denver awoke to a wall of water slamming into the city with enough force to flatten buildings and rip clothing from its victims. The infamous Big Thompson Canyon flood of 1976 killed 144 residents, tourists and campers. Per the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Coloradoans experienced twenty-two floods with contemporary monetary losses of $2 million or more since the flood of 1864. And as the population continues to grow, the loss of lives, property, crops and livestock may increase. Local author Darla Sue Dollman, who witnessed and survived many of the contemporary disasters, examines the state’s most catastrophic flash floods from 1864 to 2013.

D.S. Dollman B.A., MFA

I am a freelance photojournalist with 43 years combined experience as a photographer, blogger, writer, and editor. Most of the photographs on my blogs and news stories are my own work.