43 Years Ago Today: Colorado’s Deadliest Disaster in Big Thompson Canyon
Big Thompson Canyon flash flood in 1976 was the state’s deadliest disaster. According to Coloradoan reporting, 144 people died and it caused more than $35 million in damages.
On July 31, it rained for 4 hours in the mountains near Estes Park and because of unusual weather patterns the storm stalled and rained between 12 and 14 inches.
Witnesses later described difficulty breathing in the moisture-laden air as the rain drove “straight down, lukewarm and not an ounce of wind,” creating a heavy spray all around them. Water gathered speed as it washed over the steep rocky hillsides and flushed through the flatter meadows, all of it heading for the bottom of the V-shaped canyon.
By 9 p.m. the water from the Big Thompson River went from 18 inches to a 20 foot wall of water crippling the canyon.
There were about 4,000 people in the canyon for Colorado’s centennial weekend.
Mass devastation covered the area, there was a loss of communication as telephone lines were destroyed, the water uprooted everything in its path.
First responders made efforts to warn people and tried to evacuate the area, but with limited communication it was difficult to warn everyone..
Some escaped, others that tried beating the storm were trapped in their cars and swept away by the flood waters.
The deadly disaster claimed the lives of 143 people, injured 150 others, caused $35.5 million in damages.
The 'I Love Loveland' Facebook group shared this post about the event:
More pictures here.