The Big Thompson Flood
Bluegrass music was heard throughout the canyons, roadside picnic areas and camping sites were packed with people who were celebrating Colorado’s centennial anniversary. On this July day in 1976, the skies were blue and the weather a beautiful summer day and then a freak storm with torrent rainfall which caused major flooding and total devastation with the loss of many lives and homes due to the flooding of the Big Thompson River. This flood was one of Colorado’s worst disasters and the most terrifying night of my life.
I was thirteen years old when this flood hit. We lived at the bottom of the Big Thompson Canyon in the town of Loveland. This flood was triggered by a down-pouring rain in the upper section of the canyon. There was very little rain at the bottom of the canyon, where many people were. According to The Weather and Climate Impact Assessment Science Program, around 9 p.m., a wall of water more than 6 meters (20 ft) high raced down the canyon at about 6 m/s (14 mph),
The flood in the Big Thompson Canyon destroyed 316 homes, 45 mobile homes, 52 businesses, and 438 automobiles. On the Big Thompson River, from just west of Glen Comfort downstream to Loveland there was almost complete devastation. Devastation also occurred along the North Fork Big Thompson River in the vicinity of Glen Haven. In the north fork of the canyon, hundreds of cars and campers were strewn and destroyed. The floodwaters gouged out many dirt roads and much of Highway 34, which follows the Big Thompson River through the canyon, was washed away. Almost one-half the damage estimate was related to rebuilding the highway. There was also significant damage to the Big Thompson dam, pipeline, and power plant. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was contracted to remove destroyed automobiles and over 300,000 cubic yards of debris from the canyon, much of which used to be houses. Governmental cleanup operations cost over $1.6 million.
According to The Big...