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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

Boulder Is Flooding

By Phil Plait

Weâve been suffering a long drought in my hometown of Boulder, Colo., including unusually hot weather for the past few summers. The ground has been pretty hard, and weâve had fires, which reduce the vegetation. Itâs been worrisome for some time, because we knew if it rained hard, we could be in trouble.

Weâre in trouble.

It started raining off and on a month or more ago, but then a couple of days ago, the skies opened up. Weâve had more than an inch of rain in some places, and itâs had nowhere to go but down from the foothills of the Rockies. Boulder is now flooding; the Boulder Creek crested at 2.7 meters (8.8 feet) last night, well above its usual height.

Creeks all over the area are now rivers. I happened to be driving past one northeast of town this morning, so I grabbed my camera and shot some video.

Update, Sept. 12, 2013, at 18:00 UTC: In the video I mentioned I felt pretty safe on the overpass because the infrastructure was sound. However, I hadn't considered flash flooding. Debris has been building up in the creeks upstream, and if those let go, it can create a flash flood, a very dangerous wall of water. One has been reported at Logan's Mill in Four Mile Creek already. PLEASE, everyone, stay away from anywhere water is flowing, especially near creeks. They may look safe for now, but that can change extremely rapidly.

Itâs hard to express what this is like. That creek is usually very serene; I bike here a lot, and itâs very quiet and nice. It might usually be high enough to reach your knees from this spot. But not today. Itâs spectacular and very, very unsettling.

The weather calls for rain off and on for the next few days. If you live in the area, please check with the Boulder Office of Emergency Management website to stay updated; road closures and other information are constantly updated there.

Iâm not sure how bad things are downtownâIâm not inclined to go seeâbut if you live there, the Boulder Sheriff is advising people to stay indoors and off the roads to keep the streets open for emergency vehicles. There have been two confirmed deaths from the flood, so please stay safe. This isnât something you want to screw around with.

As for me, my area is flooding in spots but not dangerously, so weâre OK. Thanks to all the folks who have sent me notes through Twitter and email; I appreciate it. And letâs all hope the rains stop soon.

Correction, Sept. 13, 2013 at 04:00 UTC: In the text and video I mistakenly said this footage was northwest of Boulder, when it's actually northeastâI suspect it's because I was facing south the whole time, and got my directions backwards. I generally have an excellent sense of direction, so this is a little embarassing. I have fixed the text, but the video is annotated internally and so my error will be enshrined there forever.

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