Canadian Underwriter

Deadly record Colorado rainfall damage estimated at hundreds of millions

September 13, 2013   by Canadian Underwriter

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Several areas of Colorado are experiencing widespread flooding, landslides and mudslides, leaving at least three people dead and causing extensive property and infrastructure damage.

“Among the hardest-hit areas came in the greater Boulder region, where the city registered its wettest 24-hour stretch in its history,” reported Aon Benfield, the reinsurance intermediary unit of London-based Aon plc. The company also reported the Boulder area got 231 mm of rain between 6:00 p.m. Sept. 11 and 6:00 p.m. Sept. 12.

It “remains far too early to project any specific economic cost,” Aon Benfield added, but “it is expected” the economic impact “should breach the hundreds of millions” of U.S. dollars.

“The full four-day stretch of rainfall ending Thursday night (312 mm) equaled more than Boulder had experienced in any month on record dating to 1897,” Aon Benfield stated in a report Friday.

“Floodwaters washed away stretches of roadways and bridges as multiple (metres) of water also inundated blocks of homes and businesses. At least 40 buildings on the campus of the University of Colorado, representing 25% of the school’s facilities, were also damaged due to water seeping into basements and lower floors.”

Aon Benfield added the disaster led to the deaths of at least three people.

“At Boulder Creek, near Boulder, water peaked overnight at (2.7 metres),” AIR Worldwide stated in a press release.

AIR Worldwide added that about 70% of residential construction in the affected area is wood, with an estimated 40% of homes having basements.

“Colorado has a long history of flood events and flood mitigation efforts that have been in place for many years,” AIR Worldwide stated. “In Boulder County, these include codes and ordinances that prohibit, or limit, building in floodplain areas. In addition, channelization and detention ponds have been built in the county and several high-risk buildings located in floodplains have been removed.”

The State of Colorado is getting aid from the federal government “due to the emergency conditions resulting from severe storms, flooding, landslides and mudslides,” according to a Department of Homeland Security press release.

Meanwhile, there is no safe way in or out of the Town of Lyons, about 60 kilometres northwest of Denver, according to the Boulder County Office of Emergency Management.

“In Lyons, water flowed over the tops of at least five dams,” Aon Benfield stated. “Reports suggested that as many as 12 dams in the state had been overtopped.”

Nearly 100 soldiers and airmen, “along with high-mobility vehicles and helicopters, have been mobilized to assist local authorities in search-and-rescue operations,” according to a Colorado National Guard press release.

Military aid includes evacuation of Lyons, stated the Boulder County Office of Emergency Management.

The military is using a combination of UH-60 Black Hawk and LUH-72 Lakota helicopters, as well as Light Medium Tactical Vehicle trucks, wrote Colorado National Guard spokesman Captain Darin Overstreet in an e-mail to Canadian Underwriter.

Meanwhile, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is authorized to provide emergency protective measures and to coordinate disaster relief efforts, the Department of Homeland Security stated in a release.

In addition to Boulder and Lyons, other affected areas include Colorado Springs, Estes Park, Jamestown, Cascade, Chipita Park and Manitou Springs, according to Aon Benfield.

“The tremendous rains were spawned due to the presence of a nearly stationary upper level area of low pressure situated over the Great Basin that pulled an extensive amount of tropical moisture from the south into eastern Colorado,” Aon Benfield stated. “The prolonged period of elevated moisture levels prompted nearly continuous ‘upslope’ rain showers.”

From the newsroom: President Declares Disaster for #Boulder County Colorado #COflood

— femaregion8 (@femaregion8) September 15, 2013

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