Boulder: Anatomy of a Flood Recovery

Posted May 12, 2016

Recovery is underway but not complete, and provides lessons for emergency managers.

The 1,000-year rains that fell on and around Boulder, Colo., in September 2013 grabbed headlines and the nation’s attention. Total rainfall in Boulder for the three days ending on Sept. 12 was more than any recorded monthly total.

The damage was devastating, with homes ruined, bridges washed out and roadways rendered impassable. Even today, the recovery is not complete. But it is well underway — and it has brought with it lessons for emergency managers in Colorado and around the country.

Boulder’s recovery began well before the 2013 flood even happened. Both the city and county of Boulder have had flood mitigation efforts in place for years, said Mike Chard, director of the Boulder Office of Emergency Management, which was established by a joint agreement between the city of Boulder and Boulder County.

“The efforts have been around hardening infrastructure, enforcing codes, land use — really being prepared for a flood,” Chard said. Bridges were designed to withstand floods, for example, and building codes kept hazardous materials from being stored in flood plains, helping prevent a much worse disaster.

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