Floods - How Much is Too Much Water

The September 2013 Flood: What We Saw and What it Might Mean

  • Steven Griffin (CDOT)


Throughout the week of September 12, 2013, heavy sustained rains pummeled the Front Range of Northern Colorado east of the Continental Divine. The consequent flooding severely damaged or destroyed key routes on the State and Federal Highway system. Concurrent with this infrastructure damage, properties were being inundated, residents in the high river canyons were evacuated by the National Guard, and a few communities were almost entirely wiped off the map.

My presentation would focus on my observations during the flood event from a

highway hydraulic engineer's perspective. I plan to address questions such as:

-What role do I think a hydraulic engineer, as someone not typically thought to be in a "first responder" role, can best play in the first few days of a disaster of this scope? And did I get it right?

-What were the consistent types of damages that were sustained by hydraulic structures (bridges, culverts, diversion structures, etc.) from one watershed to the next?

-For the bridges that survived the initial peak flood event, what actions then needed to take place to get the bridge serviceable again?

-What crucial and irreplaceable observations did we collect (or fail to collect) that have since proved crucial in order to help future researchers reconstruct the peak flow estimates and to calculate new proposed regulatory flows?

-How did scour at highway bridges actually present itself, and does that line up with the current accepted practices of scour estimation during design?

My sincere hope is that this topic would be of interest to practicing hydraulic engineers that design, help construct, and maintain highway infrastructure. By sharing my experiences (and mistakes and uncertainties) from my response to these unprecedented flooding events in Northern Colorado, I aim to help my fellow engineers and policy makers think ahead to the day that such an event might strike their own communities and the infrastructure that they design and build.

How to Cite:

Griffin, S., (2014) “The September 2013 Flood: What We Saw and What it Might Mean”, National Hydraulic Engineering Conference 2014 1(2014).

Rights: Copyright © 2014, Steven Griffin

Publisher Notes

  • Panel moderated by Steve Sisson, DDOT.
  • About the Presenters: Steven Griffin has been a hydraulic engineer with the Colorado Department of Transportation since 2006. Prior to this, he worked with the Wyoming Department of Transportation and obtained a masters degree at Colorado State University, researching the issue of stream depletion on the Arikaree River in eastern Colorado. His current area of responsibility with CDOT covers a diverse geography, ranging from the Continental Divide eastward to the borders of Nebraska and Kansas, and north to Wyoming.

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Published on
22 Aug 2014
Peer Reviewed