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A River Runs Through It: The Poudre Overruns Its Banks

Posted by on September 13, 2013

The average yearly rainfall in Fort Collins is 15.08 inches (based on data going back to 1893). The average September rainfall is 1.27 inches. (Western Regional Climate Center Data) We live between two city rain gauges. In the past 24 hours, one has received .91 inches and the other 1.14 inches of rain. In the past 3 days, they’ve received 3.15 and 3.58 inches respectively. And in the past week the count is 3.62 and 4.21 inches. In other words, so far this week (with more rain being forecast) we have received 3 times our average September rainfall and over 25% over our yearly rainfall. As much as we need rain, getting it all at once really isn’t ideal. There are roads closed all over town where they cross the river just in case the water rises above them or they lose structural integrity, which means all over town people are stranded and can’t get home. Schools are closed. And lest you think, “at least the farmers are getting rain,” remember that there’s really only so much the ground can soak up before the rain no longer helps. It’s kind of like taking a bunch of vitamin C at once. A huge dose can do a system clean and refresh, but once that’s done, the rest just gets peed away. Once a reservoir is full, it’s full. It can’t get fuller. And it’s the full reservoirs that are leading to surges along the river that are washing away roads.

The rain has stopped for now. But this is what it looked like along the Poudre this morning. The first image is from Google Maps and shows where the river usually runs, and where it was overflowing this morning. The letters A, B, and C refer to where the following photos were taken.

The light blue line shows the approximate route of the river overflow. It’s hard to tell if the water covered the land between the blue line and the river or if this was just a secondary channel. The part of the Poudre Trail that’s just below the letter B was submerged, so the blue line is meant more to show the general path of the water than to show the width of the overflow.


A: This is where the Poudre trail veers off to the left and the Hickory Trail spur veers off to the right. School groups usually sit on logs just to the left of this sign before heading off to do research on the river. The foaming water to the right is where it’s spilling off of the bike trail.


B: This is where the Poudre River Trail heads east towards College taken from the vantage point of the part of the trail that leads to the Martinez Park parking lot. The trees on the left surround a wetlands area that apparently used to be part of a ditch that directed water to Auntie Stone’s cabin. The ditch hasn’t been used as a water way since that time. … till now.


C: This is the Poudre near the train tracks as they pass behind the Northside Aztlan Community Center. The bike trail under the train tracks were submerged.


I just found this on the Coloradoan:

“According to the National Weather Service, the Poudre reached 14.56 feet — nearly seven times its average during the previous four days — at 8:15 a.m. Friday. At that peak, more than 420,000 gallons of water passed a stream gauge every second.”

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