Lessons from the Colorado Floods

The rain started falling in Colorado on Wednesday, September 11th.  It rained, and rained, and continued to rain over the next several days.  The rain on the 12th was particularly heavy when 4 to 6 inches of rain fell in less than a 12 hour period.  In some places over 15 inches of rain fell during the multi-day storm.  The creeks and streams rose and rivers overflowed their banks.  According to the Colorado Division of Water Resources, water in many of the rivers and creeks had flows of over 1,000% than normal levels at the height of the flooding.

Roads and bridges were washed out as flooding stretched from Estes Park to south of Colorado Springs, Colorado.  Seven people are confirmed to have died and three are missing and presumed dead.  1,502 homes were destroyed and 17,494 were damaged by flood waters.  11,750 residents were evacuated from a four county area, many by helicopter.  Preliminary estimates released late last week estimate the damage at $2 billion.  These will be revised in the coming weeks as people are able to assess the damage to infrastructure (roads, bridges, water and sewage treatment plants, etc.) and personal property (homes, businesses, etc.).

Some in the news have referred to this event as a 1,000 year flood.  That’s not entirely accurate as there have been larger flood events in Colorado in the last 20 plus years.  The more accurate viewpoint is this is a 1,000 year rain event.  That doesn’t mean it only happens once every 1,000 years, it simply means there’s a 0.1% likelihood of this happening in any given year.

What are the lessons for those of us in Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, or other parts of Texas?  I think there are three lessons to learn:

  • Review your flood policy if you have one
  • Consider flood coverage even if you’re not required to have it
  • Have an evacuation plan

If you currently have a flood policy, this is the time to review it.  I recommend you review two things:

  • How much coverage do you have on your home?
  • Do you have coverage on your contents?

There are two parts to every flood policy: the required coverage on your dwelling, the home itself, and the optional coverage on your contents.  If you live in a one story home, add coverage for your personal property.  It only takes one foot of water to ruin your furniture and without coverage for your contents you’ll be left to replace out of your own pocket.

Should you have a flood policy even if you are not in a flood plain?  I don’t think everyone should have a flood policy, but I believe if you back up to a creek, drainage area, lake, or river you should consider it.  Optional coverage for someone in a non-required area is a smart choice that would pay for itself even if it was used only once a 20 year time period.  I recommend anyone in Houston have one due to the amount of rainfall that can occur due to a hurricane or tropical storm.

One of the scenarios the Army Corps of Engineers and Dallas city leaders reviewed in potential disaster scenarios involves the Trinity River levees failing after a tropical storm stalls over north Texas and dumps over 12 inches of rain in a multi-day event like Colorado saw.  Much of Dallas would be flooded as a result and Fort Worth could suffer the same fate.  It may be improbable that a catastrophic event affects all of north Texas or your area, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen.

Many of those rescued from the Colorado flooding only had the clothes on their back.  Some had a pet.  What would you take?  At the very least you should have the following:

  • Copies of your Social Security cards and/or passports
  • Listing of all banking, credit card, and investment accounts
  • Copies of your insurance policies along with contact information for your agent and claim numbers
  • Listing of key people with whom to contact and a plan on how and where to reconnect
  • Medications you need along with how to refill them if you had to wait a few days
  • $200 or so in cash (ATM and credit card processing may not be available)

For the complete list, refer to our earlier post.

I don’t believe we should live in fear or always thinking of the worst possible scenario that can happen.  I do believe we should consider what could happen and being prepared for it as we enjoy our present life.  I also believe when we’re not impacted by such an event, it’s good to reach out and help those who are affected.  We can all donate to the Red Cross (http://www.redcross.org/charitable-donations), or send food and clothing to churches and synagogues in the area that have feet on the ground.  There’s a lot to be done to help people clean up and rebuild their lives and it may take a year or longer for life to return to some semblance of normal.

Share your comments, questions, or experiences with us in the comments section of our blog or on our Facebook page.  We’ll all learn something from each other.

Evie Wise
Evie Wise


Evie Wise
Evie Wise

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