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1965 Denver flood

Posted by Richard on June 17, 2015

Fifty years ago last night, the Plum Creek drainage south of Denver received 14 inches of rain in just 3 hours. That sent a massive amount of water into the South Platte River and right into the heart of Denver. Depending on who’s telling the story and where they were when they witnessed it, the wall of water was somewhere between 20 and 40 feet high. 9News has a pretty good piece on the flood, with videos, if you can read through it without accidentally clicking away (don’t click anywhere to the left or right of the story column).

That flood led to the building of Chatfield Dam southwest of Denver just a few years later. It (along with dams on Cherry Creek and Bear Creek) has prevented a repeat occurrence. Chatfield State Park is a major recreation area. But there’s not much recreating this year because a large portion of the park is covered in water. It’s designed to work that way; by using the surrounding park area for additional water storage, Chatfield Reservoir can cope with copious amounts of rainfall and snowmelt.

This year, it’s had to, and is at the highest level since it was built. Not only is an unusually large snowpack melting very fast, but in the six weeks since May 1, Denver has only had (depending on who’s counting and where they measure) 4-7 days without rain. This has so far been one of the wettest years on record in Denver. And the foothills west of Denver and Palmer Divide to the south have gotten much more rain than Denver.

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