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Jul 31, 2013 11:34 AM by Stephen Bowers

Wednesday marks anniversary of Big Thompson Flood

(Photo from the Denver Post)

Wednesday, July 31, marks the anniversary of one of the worst weather-related disasters in Colorado's history.

Many people barely escaped, and 145 people did not make it out of Big Thompson Canyon alive on July 31, 1976. Among those killed were both tourists and locals. The National Weather Service in Boulder says a complex of thunderstorms drenched the Big Thompson River with over 12 inches of rain in only a few hours. At times it fell at a rate of nearly eight inches per hour.

The National Weather Service in Boulder says the flash flood happened in a period of just two hours, and six people were never found after the flood. They say that the wall of water moved so quickly, the only escape was up the sides of the canyon and that Highway 34 would not have been a fast enough escape route if it had not been washed out.

In all, 418 homes and 152 businesses were destroyed, along with bridges, roads, power lines, and other structures. The total damage was over $40-million.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says the Big Thompson Flood of 1976 prompted new regulations that limited building along the river and other similar rivers across the country. The flood also brought about a new early warning system for flash flooding.

More images of the flood are available from the Denver Post.

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