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Big Thompson Canyon Floods of 1976 and 2013: A Tale of Two Deadly and Destructive Weather Events


Forty years ago on July 31, as Coloradoans and tourists celebrated the state’s centennial, between 12 and 14 inches of rain fell over a four-hour period in the mountains below the resort town of Estes Park, killing 143 people. The 1976 Big Thompson flood stands as the worst natural disaster in Colorado’s recorded history.

A massive, prolonged rain event in September 2013 claimed far fewer lives, but destroyed numerous establishments, including Vistenz-Smith Park, where the 30th anniversary remembrance of the Big Thompson flood was held. A high-water marker placed by the U.S. Geological Survey to commemorate the 1976 flood was obliterated by the 2013 event, and the Sylvan Dale Ranch, host of the 40th anniversary, suffered major property damage.

What:  Weather and public safety experts will gather to commemorate lives lost, discuss flood safety in Colorado, describe improvements in weather forecasting and compare the two major flood events. Speakers will also discuss how residents and visitors should exercise safety during flash floods. USGS maps depicting the scale of both events will be available.

Who:   Officials from the state, National Weather Service and USGS.

  • Nolan Doesken, state climatologist
  • Nyzette Rydell, NWS Denver-Boulder WFO
  • Bob Kimbrough, USGS
  • Susan Jessup, Sylvan Dale Ranch owner and eyewitness to the 1976 and 2013 floods
  • Bob Henson,
  • Matt Kelsh, UCAR meteorologist, flood historian
  • Emergency management official TBD
  • Colorado Division of Water Resources

When:   Friday, July 29, 2016

               10 a.m.  – 11:30 a.m.  

Editors: To ensure space, please RSVP to either Heidi Koontz or Theo Stein by COB Thursday, July 28.

Where:  Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch

               2939 N Co Rd 31D, Loveland, Colorado 80538

   Map from Denver

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