LYONS, Colo. — After days of light rain over parts of Colorado, the clouds opened up on the evening of Sept. 11, 2013, and unleashed a torrent of rain, flooding 4,500 square miles over a series of days.
Ten years have passed since the 2013 Colorado floods took the lives of nine people and caused $4 billion in damages, making it one of the biggest disasters in the state’s history. Fifteen Colorado counties were declared disaster areas.
While the rain began falling two days prior to Sept. 11, it wasn’t until that evening that the deluge began. More than 19,000 people had to be evacuated as the rain showed no signs of stopping.
According to the National Weather Service, a weak disturbance coincided with the showers and thunderstorms on that day, resulting in an almost stationary area of heavy rain along the Front Range.
The heavy rain continued through much of the next day, before finally decreasing late that night. A few showers popped up afterward, but the vast majority of this rain fell in about 30 hours from the 11th through the 12th, according to the NWS.
The rain filled streams and rivers, causing them to swell well above flood stage. The waterways impacted included the Big Thompson River, Little Thompson River, Cache La Poudre River, Lefthand Creek, St. Vrain Creek, Boulder Creek, South Boulder Creek, Coal Creek, Sand Creek, and Fountain Creek.
When the skies cleared, the damage was more visible. Bridges were destroyed, roads disappeared, lives were lost, and public and personal property damage was extensive. More than 2,000 homes and businesses were destroyed.
The National Guard was called in and assisted in rescuing 3,000 people who were isolated after roads and bridges became washed out.
But nine people never made it out and lost their lives due to this disaster. The victims were as follows:
- James Bettner, 47, Colorado Springs
- Danny Davis, 54, Colorado Springs
- Joseph Howlett, 72, Jamestown
- Wiyanna Nelson, 19, Boulder
- Wesely Quinlan, 19, Boulder
- Carroll White, 83, Idaho Springs
- Evelyn Starner, 79, Loveland
- Gerald Boland, 80, Lyons
- Patty Goodwine, 60, Loveland
One of the hardest hit areas was the town of Lyons, which saw 12-18 inches through this period.
Town of Lyons hosts official flood remembrance ceremony
Neal Sullivan, owner of St. Vrain Market on Main Street in Lyons, said the disaster brought them closer together, and strengthened their community in many ways.
He said the days of rainfall that led up to the flooding were becoming a concern.
"What was unique is Colorado usually doesn't get persistent rain. And so, after several days of rain, I think everyone was not only exhausted by it but starting to get a little bit concerned," he said.
Sullivan said his store became an "epicenter" during the flooding.
"The highway became the river, and the highway feeds right toward the front of the store," he explained. "So the river was flowing directly at the market, into the market, and flooding where we're standing."
'Working together to be stronger': Living in Lyons a decade after the flood
Ten years later, rebuilding efforts in Lyons are still underway — in some ways to restore the town, and in other ways, as a form of acceptance that life was forever changed by the torrents of water.
Several local communities are hosting events this weekend and upcoming week to commemorate the 10-year anniversary mark.
The following are some events that are taking place:
Tuesday, Sept. 5, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Viewing of documentary "Fundamentals of the Flood" by Cat Russell
Lyons Regional Library Community Room
Saturday, Sept. 9, 6-7:30 p.m.
Open Mic: Sharing of stories, poems, songs from the 2013 flood
Moxie Bread, Lyons
Sunday, Sept. 10, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Official Remembrance Ceremony of 2013 Flood at Sandstone Park
Sunday, Sept. 10, 12:30-4 p.m.
Town-wide exhibits and displays at the following locations:
- Town Hall: Flood Presentations at 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.
- Visitor's Center: Large flood memorabilia, flood t-shirts, canvas prints
- Lyons Regional Library: Hands-on memorabilia - books and photos
- Lyons Redstone Museum: Permanent flood display and flood interviews
- Lyons Elementary School: Gerald Boland Bench and Stone
- Lyons Valley Townhomes: Tour of recently built affordable housing at Carter Drive
Sunday, Sept. 10, 12:30-4 p.m
Silver Linings Tour - One hour guided golf car tour of flood recovery projects at Sandstone Park
Sunday, Sept. 10, 3-7 p.m.
Community Gathering (Picnic, live music, dance performance)
LaVern M Johnson Park
Monday, Sept. 11, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Candlelight Vigil (Ceremony and music) at Confluence Circle (4th Avenue and Prospect Street)