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Despite its generally dry climate, Colorado does get its share of floods. In May and June, our mountain snow melts, draining into streams and reservoirs. Problems arise when exceptionally warm days melt too much snow too quickly. The situation gets worse if a heavy rain adds more water to rivers already at capacity. Mountain towns bear the brunt of most flooding from snowmelt.

During July and August, flash floods become a major weather hazard. Slow-moving thunderstorms can dump several inches of rain over a small area in a few hours, quickly saturating the ground. In steep mountain terrain, the runoff pours into streams and rivers, causing water levels to rise rapidly.

Flash floods are responsible for most flood deaths, and nearly half of those fatalities are auto related—such as when people unwittingly try to drive through flood waters. It only takes two feet of water to carry away most automobiles, and six inches of fast-moving water can knock you off your feet. That’s why, in a flash flood, it’s best to leave your car, get away from the water, and climb to safety.

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Colorado’s Deadliest Flood
On July 30, 1976, a flash flood claimed the lives of 139 people when a wall of water rushed down Big Thompson Canyon. To get an in-depth account of the weather events that created the flood, check out this site from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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Photo credits: © Corbis Images, © NCAR, © NOAA, courtesy NEWS4, Colorado's news channel.