Category Archives: Colorado

Environmental contamination from Colorado floods? Too soon to know the full extent

From a transcript of an 18 September 2013 interview on Democracy Now about the aftermath of the 2013 Colorado floods. Jim Pullen is a reporter at Colorado radio station KGNU, an independent community station in Boulder and Denver. Hyperlinks are my own.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And when do you expect to learn, Jim Pullen, of the extent of the environmental contamination as a result of these floods?

JIM PULLEN: That, I think that is going to take some weeks, very unfortunately. There are two things going on — well there are several things that are going on that are of incredible concern. Of course, in any flood event, there are going to be a lot of contaminants in the water. There are going to be dead animals, there are going to be — there are oil stations — gasoline stations that have been inundated. People’s homes have been inundated, and people keep a lot of chemicals in their homes that are under relatively low protection.

We have some very serious issues here in the state of Colorado in addition to those normal flooding issues. We have the Rocky Flats plant, or what was once upon a time the Rocky Flats Plant where plutonium is underground. And there has been extensive flooding in that area. And we also have tens of thousands of active oil and gas wells in the state, 20,000 alone in Weld County. The industry — a lobbying group is reporting 1900 of those oil and gas wells have been shut down, and including the two largest suppliers, Noble Energy and Anadarko are reporting about five to ten percent of their wells have been shut down.

For example, Noble Energy owns 7600 wells in Weld County itself, which is right to the northeast of us. So, there are a lot of contaminants potentially floating around. And in the case of Rocky Flats, I spoke with a Christine Everson (ed. note: Kristen Iversen?) last night and she said it is going to take weeks for laboratory results of plutonium and other contaminants to become available to the public.

End transcript.

Notes: A Denver Post story of September 16 further reports:

Colorado’s richest oil field — the Denver-Julesburg Basin — is buried in floodwaters, raising operational and environmental concerns, as state and industry officials work to get a handle on the problem.

Thousands of wells and operating sites have been affected — some remain in rushing waters, officials said.

“The scale is unprecedented,” said Mike King, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. “We will have to deal with environmental contamination from whatever source.”

Notes: Another Denver Post story with breaking news of an oil spill on the South Platte River

MILLIKEN — Industry crews have placed absorbent booms in the South Platte River south of Milliken where at least 5,250 gallons of crude oil has spilled into the flood-swollen river.

The spill from a damaged tank was reported to the Colorado Department of Natural Resources Wednesday afternoon by Anadarko Petroleum, as is required by state law.

State officials have responded to the spill site, which is south of Milliken near where the St. Vrain River flows into the South Platte.


Boulder Colorado Flood of September 2013

The city of Boulder, Colorado is flooded after several days of torrential rains. Here’s some useful links if you want to get up to speed on what’s going on.

Turn around, don’t drown. If you’re in the affected area, get authoritative news from local sources (and not this blog).


For raw unfiltered news of what is happening, listen to the emergency services scanner for the Boulder area. The Boulder County Sheriff and Fire feed has over 800 listeners as of this writing. You’ll want to listen through headphones, because the feed is a stereo feed with fire/rescue on one channel and police on the other.

A good text counterpart to this is the Boulder Office of Emergency Management twitter feed, which has brief and authoritative updates about the situation. The Boulder OEM web site echoes those updates in more detail.

Local news media

The Daily Camera is Boulder’s daily newspaper, and it has continuous updates on the situation. Their September 12 story is a long list of incidents, warnings, accounts and stories about what’s going on. Twitter: @dailycamera

There’s flooding in the Denver area as well, and the Denver Post is on it. A September 12 Denver Post story notes the extent of the damage:

Heavy rain and massive flooding threatens towns and cities up and down the Front Range into the day Thursday as communities were evacuated, roads closed and emergency shelters set up.
Three people were confirmed dead and at least one missing.
At an afternoon news conference Boulder officials said at least 12 dams in the county had overflowed.The Boulder airport was closed as well as Boulder mountain parks and open space until further notice.


As ever, Twitter is on the scene when there’s news. The #boulderflood and #cowx hashtags have been trending, with photos, video, and brief accounts of what’s happening. A #coflood tag covers flooding across Colorado.


A map has been removed per the owner’s request on 25 October 2013.

The City of Boulder has a road closures map with markers showing where roads are closed or impassible. Officials are recommending that people stay off the roads.

As of Thursday, September 12 in the evening I have not been able to find a good clear map that shows the full extent of affected areas, and emergency operations are still in rescue mode.

Google has a crisis map for the 2013 Boulder Floods. This is a snapshot as of Friday, September 13, in the morning. The dots mark places where roads are closed, and the evacuation area for Longmont is shown as the St Vrain River bisects the town. Look at the current map for the latest details, and know that roads are being opened and closed in response to changing needs.

Screen shot 2013-09-13 at 10.39.12 AM

Cities affected by the flood

This is an incomplete list of towns and villages beyond Boulder that are affected by the flood.

Lyons, Colorado: Photos on Facebook at the Lyons, Colorado page and at Kenneth Wajda’s site I Am Lyons Colorado.

A National Weather Service alert warns of flash flooding hazards in Lyons, Jamestown, Peaceful Valley, Allenspark, Raymond, Meeker Park and Longs Peak.

Another alert warns for flooding in the following locations: Northwestern Arvada, Western Westminster, Boulder, Western Longmont, Southwestern Broomfield, Lafayette, Louisville. Superior, Lyons, Jamestown, Salina, Eldorado Springs, Crisman. Gold Hill, Niwot, Summerville, wallstreet, Rocky Flats. Raymond, sunshine, white Ranch open space and Allenspark.

The Jefferson County Sheriff has emergency information on a Blogspot weblog.

KRDO has a log of Colorado Springs flooding information.

Water levels

The Boulder Creek hydrograph shows current water levels measured in Boulder. As of this writing the creek is in “moderate flood stage” and rising.



This flood is being compared to the 1894 Boulder flood. The Boulder History Museum account of that flood reads in part:

As rains continued, adding to spring runoff, Boulder Creek began to rise. The threat of a flood was serious. Overnight, the creek rose out of its banks and rushed through the canyons above Boulder. By daybreak the creek had turned into an angry river, carrying debris from the settlements and bridges it destroyed in the mountains. In Boulder, the creek had begun its destruction as it swept the Sixth and Twelfth Street bridges downstream. The flood submerged railroad tracks, roads and farms, and tore down telephone and telegraph poles, taking Boulder’s means of transportation and communication out of commission.

Black Forest Fire near Colorado Springs, Colorado (with maps updated Thursday 6/13 5:37 p.m MT)

UPDATED Thursday June 13, 6:00 p.m MT with new maps at the top.

The fast-moving Black Forest Fire is burning homes northeast of Colorado Springs, Colorado. High temperatures, high winds, and low humidity are fanning the flames. Two people are known to have died in the fire, and more than 360 homes have been lost. If you are near the fire, please seek out current and official information rather than relying on this weblog. Lots of photos and news are showing up on the #blackforestfire Twitter tag. Residents can call 719-444-8300 for information on the fire, but no exact information is available on individual homes yet. Official info from El Paso County will be more current than this page.

News coverage: Denver Post, “Black Forest Fire near Colorado Springs prompts mandatory evacuations“. Live blog: Colorado Springs Gazette, “LIVE UPDATES

Television: CBS Denver 4, KOAA 5, KKTV 11 (Facebook), KRDO 13.

Fire perimeter map, originally from Weather Underground’s Wundermap. As of Thursday, 19:34 MT.

Fire evacuation map as of 5:37 p.m. MT, June 13, 2013. This map is from the Colorado Springs Gazette, retrieve the latest version if you are in the fire area. Please note the expansion of the fire to the northeast as well as to the southwest.

Fire map as of 9:00 p.m. MT, June 11, 2013. If you are in the affected area, you’ll want to get an updated map. (Map via The Gazette)


KUSA has a Google Map with additional information including evacuation locations.

Wildfire Today has Maps of Colorado Wildfires with details of three fires: Big Meadow in Rocky Mountain National Park, Black Forest near Colorado Springs, and Royal Gorge at Canon City southwest of Colorado Springs. They also have photos of the fires and other details.

Live coverage: El Paso County Fire and EMS (1200+ listeneres at 9:00 p.m. MT Tues June 11, 2013). Alert message: El Paso County: “Black Forest” fire has burned several hundred acres and destroyed an unknown number of homes/structures. Local, county, state and Federal resources operating. Large and small helo’s and heavy air tankers also operating. (116 minutes ago)

The radar from Weather Underground shows a clear smoke plume.



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