Study examines flood mitigation for Harvard Gulch

High-intensity storms peak in late summer

Staff Report
Posted 9/5/18

On July 24, a hailstorm came through the south metro area, causing a sinkhole to open in Sheridan, southwest of Denver. In Englewood, a young woman died when water flooded the basement she was in. …

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Study examines flood mitigation for Harvard Gulch

High-intensity storms peak in late summer

Posted

On July 24, a hailstorm came through the south metro area, causing a sinkhole to open in Sheridan, southwest of Denver. In Englewood, a young woman died when water flooded the basement she was in.

These summer storms are common, but if the wrong area gets enough water, the effect can be devastating said Kevin Stewart, who works in flood warning and information services with the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District (UDFCD) in Colorado.

The UDFCD works with several municipalities in the Denver metro area. After storms like the one on July 24, it checks local waterways for trash and debris such as tree limbs.

Late July and early August can hit Denver and the surrounding areas hard with hail and rainstorms that can cause flooding. Ken MacKenzie, the executive director of the UDFCD, said this is the peak of storm activity.

“That’s when you get a lot of the slow-moving, high-intensity rain events,” MacKenzie said.

This particular storm brought in an estimated 1 1/2 inches of rain over an hour in Denver, MacKenzie said. Englewood took the brunt of the storm, receiving just over two inches of water in a shorter period of time.

A recent study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers looked at the Harvard Gulch area to try and find flood mitigation solutions. The study covered the gulch from where it connects to the South Platte River at Wesley Avenue west over to Colorado Boulevard. The Army Corps estimated the cost of the flood mitigation projects at about $26 million.

The study is being reviewed by the Army Corps, and if approved will be included in a report that will go to Congress. From there, Congress will decide if the project can get funding through the Water Resources Development Act. Congress usually puts the funding together every two years, with the next one set for 2020.

The study can be found at https://bit.ly/2wnRSQi.

For residential areas that come close to creeks like the Rosedale neighborhood does to Harvard Gulch, people have to be careful about flooding issues, Stewart said.

“They really didn’t leave enough room for the creek when they built the neighborhood in the first place,” he said.

Knowing whether a home is in a floodplain and getting insurance is the first step. Stewart said people should have a flood plan similar to any other emergency storm such as a tornado. He added that people should avoid driving during flooding because all it takes is 12 inches of water to make a car float.

When storms are coming in, people can go to the UDFCD website for tracking. The site uses radar that can pinpoint the storm’s location and possible intensity.

“We definitely have our eyes to the skies,” MacKenzie said.

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