Drought

Did you know that droughts are the most costly natural disasters affecting the U.S.?

With its semiarid conditions, drought is a natural part of the Colorado climate, and no portion of the State is immune from drought conditions.  Drought tends to be a complex and a gradual phenomenon.  It occurs when a normal amount of moisture is unavailable to satisfy an area’s usual water consumption.  The effects of drought vary based on where in the State it occurs, when it happens, and how long the drought persists. Although they can be characterized as emergencies, they differ from most natural disasters, such as floods or wildfires, because they typically occur slowly over a multi-year period. It is often not obvious or easy to quantify when a drought begins and ends.

Drought is one of the few hazards with the potential to directly or indirectly impact the entire population of Colorado. This can be from water restrictions, higher water and food prices, reduced air or water quality, or restricted access to recreational areas. For instance, droughts that occur in the mountainous regions of Colorado during winter months may impact the ski and tourism industry. Additionally, the lack of winter snowfall in the mountains can eventually lead to agricultural impacts on the eastern plains due to decreased water access. 

Explore the information below to learn more about this “creeping phenomenon!”

VIDEO: National Geographic: 

https://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2012/11/29/with-drought-looming-colorado-river-basin-needs-solutions/

Within text photo courtesy of the NOAA Photo Library

Before

  • Choose appliances that are more energy and water efficient. 
  • Repair dripping faucets by replacing washers.
  • Try not to pour water down the drain when there may be another use for it (i.e. use it to water plants).
  • Plant native and/or drought-tolerant grasses, shrubs, and trees. Once established, plants adapted to your local climate do not need water as frequently and usually will survive a dry period without watering. Small plants require less water to become established.
  • Avoid over-fertilizing your lawn. Applying fertilizer increases the need for water.
  • Raise the lawn mower blade to at least three inches or to its highest level. A higher cut encourages grass roots to grow deeper, shades the root system, and holds soil moisture.
  • Check sprinkler systems and timing devices regularly to be sure they operate properly. Set a timer to remind yourself to turn manual sprinklers off.  A garden hose can pour out 600 gallons in only a few hours!  You also have the option to invest in a weather-based irrigation controller—or a smart controller. These devices will automatically adjust the watering time and frequency based on soil moisture, rain, wind, and evaporation and transpiration rates. Check with your local water agency to see if there is a rebate available for the purchase of a smart controller.
  • Contact your local water provider for information and assistance.

During

  • Always observe state and local restrictions on water use during a drought. If restricted, for example, do not water your lawn, wash your car, or use water for any other non-essential uses. This helps ensure there is enough water for essential uses. 
  • Operate automatic dishwashers only when they are fully loaded. Use the “light wash” feature, if available, to use less water.
  • Operate automatic clothes washers only when they are fully loaded or set the water level for the size of your load.
  • Ensure irrigation systems are working efficiently so plants only get the water they need.
  • Water your lawn early in the morning or later in the evening, when temperatures are cooler. Also, water in several short sessions rather than one long one, in order for your lawn to better absorb moisture and avoid runoff.
  • Use a broom or blower instead of a hose to clean leaves and other debris from your driveway or sidewalk.

After

  • Where possible, maintain conservation practices that you have adopted during the drought even after restrictions have ended.

More Information:

References, Resources and More Information:

  • Ready.gov – Drought
  • Colorado Water Conservation Board
  • Red Cross – Drought Preparedness
  • NOAA Drought Information Center
  • National Drought Mitigation Center
  • Colorado Climate Center
  • U.S. Drought Portal
  • Colorado Drought Mitigation and Response Plan

It Happened Here

Colorado has experienced widespread, severe drought since the late 1800s.  As of 2013, the drought of 2002 is considered the worst single year drought on record in Colorado‘s history. Statewide snowpack was at or near all-time lows. What made 2002 so unusual was that the entire state was dry at the same time.  These conditions were rated exceptional by the U.S. Drought Monitor and were the most severe drought conditions experienced in the region since the Dust Bowl in the 1930s. During 2011-2013, some regions throughout southeastern Colorado have experienced persistent severe to exceptional drought conditions that are comparable to conditions seen during both the 2002 drought and the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

Fast Facts:

  • Annual precipitation in Colorado averages only 17 inches statewide, with the majority of the State receiving only 12-16 inches.
  • Droughts can reduce air quality and compromise the health of people with certain conditions.
  • In addition to the drought, human farming techniques contributed to the catastrophic Dust Bowl.
  • A sink that drips about a drop per second will waste about 2,700 gallons of water a year.
  • Most of the year, lawns need only 1″ of water each week.
  • A heavy rain can eliminate the need for watering your yard for up to two weeks.
  • No major rivers flow into Colorado, only out.
  • Colorado gets new water supplies from only one source, which is precipitation.
  • Drought is a slow-onset natural hazard that is often referred to as a creeping phenomenon.

Wildfire

Do you know how to properly prepare and defend yourself, family and home from a wildfire?

Every year wildfires burn thousands of homes leaving homeowners devastated and wondering where and how to start rebuilding their lives. Often times, wildfires begin unnoticed. They spread quickly, leaving little time to pack and evacuate.

Furthermore, wildfire threats to lives and property increase as more people build homes, operate business and recreate in areas where wildlands border more urban areas. Over the past few decades, more people are moving into an area referred to as the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI). The WUI’s are where man-made improvements, such as homes, are built close to, or within, natural terrain and flammable vegetation with high potential for wildland fire. While residents in these areas enjoy the beauty of the environment around them, they also face the very real danger of wildfires.

In addition to the growth of people migrating to the WUI, frequent severe drought, record heat and insect infestations have contributed to higher fire danger in Colorado. Are you at risk? Check the Colorado Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal!

Despite the risk, everyone can take steps to prepare for wildfires. Explore the information below to learn more about what you can do!

Cover photo courtesy of Douglas County

Banner photo courtesy of FEMA/Andrea Booher

It Happened Here photo courtesy of the Colorado National Guard

Before

  • Build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
  • Know more than one exit route in case you have to evacuate.
  • Plant fire-resistant shrubs and trees.
  • Remove leaves and other debris from the roof and gutters.
  • Inspect chimneys at least twice a year and clean them at least once a year.
  • Use 1/8-inch mesh screen beneath porches, decks, floor areas, and the home itself to help keep embers out.
  • Install a dual-sensor smoke alarm on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms.  Be sure to test the alarms monthly and change the batteries at least once each year.
  • Teach each family member how to use a fire extinguisher and show them where it’s located.
  • Keep a ladder that will reach the roof.
  • Consider installing protective shutters or heavy fire-resistant drapes.
  • Clear items that will burn from around the house, including wood piles, wooden lawn furniture, barbecue grills, tarp coverings, etc. Move them outside of your defensible space.

Preparing a Safety Zone for Your Home

Create a 30 to 100 foot safety zone around your home. Within this area, you can take steps to reduce potential exposure to flames and radiant heat. Homes built in pine forests should have a minimum safety zone of 100 feet. If your home sits on a steep slope, standard protective measures may not be enough – contact your local fire department or forestry office for specific information.

Within the zone, you will want to take the following steps:

  • Rake and remove leaves, dead limbs and twigs – clear all flammable vegetation.
  • Remove leaves and rubbish from under structures.
  • Thin a 15-foot space between tree tops and remove limbs within 15 feet of the ground.
  • Remove dead branches that extend over the roof. 
  • Prune tree branches and shrubs within 15 feet of a stovepipe or chimney outlet.
  • Ask the power company to clear branches from power lines.
  • Remove vines from the walls of the home.
  • Mow grass regularly.
  • Clear a 10-foot area around propane tanks and the barbecue. Place a screen over the grill – use nonflammable material with mesh no coarser than one-quarter inch.
  • Regularly dispose of newspapers and rubbish at an approved site. Follow local burning regulations.
  • Place stove, fireplace and grill ashes in a metal bucket, soak in water for 2 days, then bury the cold ashes in mineral soil.
  • Store gasoline, oily rags and other flammable materials in approved safety cans. Place cans in a safe location away from the base of buildings.
  • Stack firewood at least 100 feet away and uphill from your home. Clear combustible material within 20 feet of the wood pile.
  • Review your homeowner’s insurance policy and also prepare/update an inventory of your home’s contents.

During

Pre-evacuation

  • Be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.
  • If you haven’t received an evacuation notice, but your instincts are telling you that you should evacuate, do so immediately.
  • Listen to local radio and television stations for updated emergency information.
  • Always back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of escape.
  • Confine pets to one room so that you can find them if you need to evacuate quickly.
  • Arrange temporary housing at a friend or relative’s home outside the threatened area in case you need to evacuate.
  • Wear protective clothing when outside – sturdy shoes, cotton or wool clothes, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves and a handkerchief to protect your face.
  • Place valuable papers, mementos and anything “you can’t live without” inside the car, ready for quick departure. Any pets still with you should also be put in the car.
  • Close outside attic, eaves and basement vents, windows, doors, pet doors, etc. Remove flammable drapes and curtains. Close all shutters, blinds or heavy non-combustible window coverings to reduce radiant heat.
  • Close all doors inside the house to prevent draft. Open the damper on your fireplace, but close the fireplace screen.
  • Shut off any natural gas, propane or fuel oil supplies at the source.
  • Connect garden hoses to an outdoor water faucet and fill any pools, hot tubs, garbage cans, tubs or other large containers with water.
  • Place valuables that will not be damaged by water in a pool or pond.
  • Place lawn sprinklers on the roof and near above-ground fuel tanks. Leave sprinklers on wetting these structures as long as possible.
  • If you have gas-powered pumps for water, make sure they are fueled and ready.
  • Disconnect any automatic garage door openers so that doors can still be opened by hand if the power goes out, but keep the door closed.
  • Move flammable furniture into the center of the residence away from the windows and sliding-glass doors.

Immediate Evacuation Required

  • If advised to evacuate, do so immediately. Take your emergency kit, lock your home and choose a route away from the fire hazard. Watch for changes in the speed and direction of the fire and smoke. Inform someone of when you left and where you are going.
  • If you see a wildfire and haven’t received evacuation orders yet, call 9-1-1. Don’t assume that someone else has already called. Describe the location of the fire, speak slowly and clearly, and answer any questions asked by the dispatcher.
  • Go to a designated public shelter if you have been told to evacuate or you feel it is unsafe to remain in your home. Check COEmergency.com for shelter information or go to your local emergency management website.
  • If you are with burn victims, or are a burn victim yourself, call 9-1-1 or seek help immediately; cool and cover burns to reduce chance of further injury or infection.

After

  • Do not return to your home until fire officials say it is safe to do so.
  • Use caution when entering burned areas as hazards may still exist, including hot spots, which can flare up without warning.
  • For several hours after the fire, maintain a “fire watch.” Re-check for smoke and sparks throughout the house, including the attic.
  • If you detect heat or smoke when entering a damaged building, evacuate immediately.
  • Avoid damaged or fallen power lines, poles and downed wires.
  • Watch for ash pits and mark them for safety – warn family and neighbors to keep clear of the pits also.
  • Watch animals closely and keep them under your direct control. Hidden embers and hot spots could burn your pets’ paws or hooves.
  • Remain calm, pace yourself and listen carefully to what people are telling you, and deal with urgent situations first.
  • Contact your insurance company if there is any damage.

More Information:

References, Resources and More Information:

  • Ready.gov – Wildfires
  • Ready, Set, Go!
  • Surviving Wildfire
  • Colorado Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal
  • Colorado State Forest Service
  • National Interagency Fire Center
  • U.S. Fire Administration
  • US Forest Service
  • National Fire Protection Association
  • Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association
  • Firewise
  • Fire Adapted Communities
  • Red Cross – Wildfire Preparedness
  • InciWeb

It Happened Here

The Black Forest fire started on June 11, 2013 and would continue to burn until June 21, ultimately growing to 14,280 acres. Two deaths were confirmed on June 13, 2013. The Black Forest fire was the single most destructive fire in Colorado History in terms of properties lost. Estimated insured losses totaled $292.8 million resulting from approximately 3,630 homeowner and auto insurance claims filed so far. El Paso County reports 486 structures burned in the blaze.This was the second time in less than a year that a fire in El Paso County set such a record, the first being the Waldo Canyon fire.

Fast Facts:

  • Every wildfire is affected by the same three things: fuel, weather, and terrain.
  • A wildfire can run uphill four to five times faster than downhill.  Wind travels uphill, taking the fire along with it.
  • Wildfires are seven times more likely to be started by humans than by lightning.
  • Every wildfire is affected by the same three things: fuel, weather, and terrain.

Landslide/Rockslide

Did you know that after fire flooding can cause debris flow and landslides?

Landslides are masses of rock, earth or debris moving down a slope. They are activated by rainstorms, earthquakes, fires and human-caused projects, such as construction. Landslides can vary widely in size and can move at slow or very high speeds depending on slope angle, water content and geologic characteristics of the ground both at the surface and at depth. Flows are often initiated by heavy periods of rainfall, but can sometimes happen as a result of concentrated rainfall.

Land movement related to landslides, mud and debris flows, and rockfalls occur naturally across Colorado on an ongoing basis. It is estimated that there are thousands of landslides in Colorado each year although the number, frequency, and severity fluctuate. Landslides constitute a major geologic hazard because they are widespread, occur in all 50 states and U.S. territories, cause $1-2 billion in damages and result in 25 to 50 fatalities on average each year. Expansion of urban and recreational developments into hillside areas leads to more people being exposed to the threat of landslides each year.

Note: Generally, landslide insurance is not available, but debris flow damage, in some cases may be covered by flood insurance policies from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) at www.FloodSmart.gov.

Despite the risk, everyone can take steps to prepare for landslides and rockslides. Explore the information below to learn more about landslide preparedness!

Cover photo courtesy of the Colorado Department of Transportation

Banner photo courtesy of FEMA/Adam DuBrowa

Within text photo courtesy of the Fort Collins Office of Emergency Management

Before

  • Do not build near steep slopes, close to mountain edges or near drainage ways or erosion valleys.
  • Get a ground assessment of your property.
  • Learn about the emergency response and evacuation plans for your area.
  • Minimize hazards around your home by installing flexible pipe fittings, building retaining walls or building channels to direct flow around buildings.

During

  • Stay alert when driving during storms.
  • Be aware of weather conditions and remember that short bursts of rain,  particularly after longer periods of heavy rainfall and damp weather, can provide especially dangerous conditions.
  • Stay out of the path of a landslide or rockslide, no matter how slow the ground appears to be moving.  Debris flows can move quickly and it is best to treat them like floods and move to higher ground, if possible. 
  • Listen for any unusual sounds that might indicate moving debris, such as trees cracking or boulders knocking together. A trickle flow may precede the much larger event and many slides can onset rapidly.
  • If you are near a stream or channel, be alert for sudden changes in water levels or if the water changes from clear to muddy. Such changes indicate activity upstream and you should be prepared to move quickly.
  • Be especially alert when driving. Bridges may be washed out and boulders may be dislodged. Embankments upon roadsides and the base of high-angle, steep terrain is particularly susceptible to landslides and rockslides.
  • Contact your local fire, police or public works department immediately if you suspect or have witnessed a landslide.
  • Inform affected neighbors. Your neighbors, and particularly visitors to Colorado unfamiliar with mountain terrain, may not be aware of potential hazards. Advising them of the threat may help save their lives.
  • Evacuate any area you suspect of being involved in or imminently threatened by a landslide/rockslide.
  • If you are caught in a landslide/rockslide with no option to evacuate, curl in to a tight ball and protect your head.

After

  • Stay away from the slide area. There may be danger of additional slides.
  • Contact local officials to provide information on the slide location and any injuries/conditions.
  • Listen to local radio or television stations or emergency management warning systems for information.
  • Watch for flooding, which may occur after a landslide or debris flow.
  • Check for injured and trapped persons near the slide, without entering the slide area. Stay on-site to direct rescuers to their locations.
  • Help anyone who may require special assistance. Elderly, families with young children and people with disabilities my benefit from additional help.
  • Look for and report any broken utility lines and damaged roadways and railways to appropriate authorities. Reporting potential hazards will help direct efforts to mitigate any additional hazards and injury.
  • Check building foundations, chimneys and surrounding land for damage.
  • Seek advice from experts to evaluate remaining or existing hazards or to design corrective techniques to reduce risk.

More Information:

References, Resources and More Information:

  • Ready.gov – Landslides & Debris Flow
  • Red Cross – Landslide Safety
  • U.S. Geological Survey – Landslide Hazards Program
  • Colorado Geological Survey
  • National Landslide Information Center
  • Natural Hazards Center
  • Colorado Department of Transportation

It Happened Here

On March 8th, 2010, a large rockfall in the Glenwood Canyon shut down Interstate 70. Twenty boulders, ranging from three feet to 10 feet in diameter, fell on the interstate. As they fell, these heavy rocks punched several holes through the roadway, including one that was 20 feet by 10 feet. The largest boulder weighed 66 tons! Crews were able to restore one lane in each direction within four days, eliminating the two-hour detour and preventing any long-term disruptions to tourism and the transportation industry. Between maintenance, traffic control and repairs, the total cost of the incident was $2,180,000.

Fast Facts:

  • Post-fire debris flows are most common in the 2 years after a fire; they are usually triggered by heavy rainfall.
  • On average, 20-50 people are killed each year by landslides in the U.S.
  • If you get caught in a landslide or debris flow, curl into a tight ball and protect your head!

Tornado

Did you know that tornadoes can reach speeds of 300 miles per hour?

Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms.  A tornado appears as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground with whirling winds.  They may appear nearly transparent until dust and debris are picked up or a cloud forms within the funnel. Their damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long. More powerful tornadoes have the ability to move large and heavy objects. Most tornadoes move from southwest to northeast, but they can move in any direction or suddenly change their path. 

In Colorado, the primary threat of tornadoes is east of the Continental Divide along the Front Range and foothill counties.  Most of tornadoes here occur in June, followed by July and May, mainly during afternoon or evening hours.

Despite the risks tornadoes present, everyone can take steps to prepare.  Explore the information below to discover how to keep yourself and family safe during a tornado!

Cover photo courtesy of Douglas County ─ Lemon Gulch Tornado

Within text photo courtesy of Douglas County ─ Castle Rock Tornado

Before

  • Maintain an emergency kit or check list of emergency items to take with you.
  • Develop a family communication plan in case your family is separated.
  • Identify a safe shelter location. A basement is best, followed by interior rooms on the lowest level of the building away from windows. Mobile homes are often unsafe in a tornado – identify a neighbor’s house or public shelter where you can go if a tornado warning is issued.
  • Obtain a NOAA Weather Radio to receive alerts about impending severe weather.
  • Sign up for reverse telephone alerts for your county, and don’t forget to include your cell phone.
  • Make sure you have sufficient insurance coverage – including flood insurance, which is separate from your homeowners policy.
  • Photograph or video the contents of your home in case you need to file a claim.
  • Store copies of your important documents in another location, such as a bank safe deposit box.
  • Consider building a safe room inside your home.

During

  • Immediately go to your pre-identified safe shelter – there is no time to gather possessions.
  • If possible, crouch under a sturdy piece of furniture, such as a table. Cover your head and neck with your hands and arms.
  • If you are outside and no other shelter is available, get in a vehicle and drive to shelter if possible. Keep in mind that you won’t be able to outrun a tornado.
  • If you must use a vehicle for shelter, keep your seatbelt on, cover your head and keep it below the window level.
  • Do not use an overpass or bridge for shelter.
  • If no other shelter is available, lie in a low spot and cover your head, but be alert for water filling the location.

After

  • Avoid downed power lines and leaking gas lines – report them to your utility company.
  • Watch for broken glass, nails, and other sharp objects.
  • Avoid damaged buildings until declared safe by officials.
  • Notify your family that you are safe – phone lines may be down, so be prepared to send text messages.
  • Check property for damage and contact your insurance company to file a claim, if necessary.

More Information:

References, Resources and More Information:

  • Ready.gov – Tornadoes
  • NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory
  • State of Colorado Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan
  • Thunderstorms, Tornadoes, Lightning…Nature’s Most Violent Storms
  • Tornado Project

It Happened Here

Windsor, Colorado experienced a tornado and hail storm in May 2008 that caused an estimated $193.5 million in insured losses. It was rated an EF3 tornado ─ wind estimates in the heavily damaged areas were as high as 130 to 150 mph. One person died as a result of trying to outrun the tornado and several injuries were reported.

Fast Facts:

  • Tornadoes can occur at any time of day, any day of the year.
  • Tornadoes may strike quickly with little or no warning.
  • Tornadoes are most frequently reported east of the Rocky Mountains during spring and summer months.
  • Colorado residents can expect an average of forty tornadoes every year, which ranks Colorado as ninth in the country for numbers of tornadoes.

Severe Weather/Thunderstorm

Did you know that there are 20 million thunderstorms in the U.S. per year?

Thunderstorms are a normal precursor to hazards such as lightning, hail, wind, floods and even tornadoes. They are quite prevalent along the Front Range to the eastern plains during the spring and summer. The typical thunderstorm is 15 miles in diameter and lasts an average of 30 minutes. Lightning can occur anywhere there is a thunderstorm, and can even strike miles away from the storm. Looking at where lightning occurs helps describe where the most prevalent thunderstorm activity is in Colorado. For instance, the greatest number of lightning flashes is not found across the high mountain elevations, but rather where the mountains and plains intersect. Lightning causes an average of 55-60 fatalities and 400 injuries each year. These incidents are most common during summer afternoons and evenings. In addition, wildfire ignition by lightning is of great concern in Colorado. Every year, lightning causes numerous fires across the U.S. According to the National Fire Protection Association, lightning causes an average of about 24,600 fires each year.

Hail can also accompany thunderstorms. Colorado’s damaging hail season is considered to be from mid-April to mid-August. Colorado’s Front Range is located in the heart of “Hail Alley,” which receives the highest frequency of large hail in North America and most of the world, so residents can count on three to four catastrophic (defined as at least $25 million in insured damage) hailstorms every year.

Additionally, familiarizing yourself with the terms below may help with what to expect so you can properly prepare.

Severe Thunderstorm Watch ─ Severe thunderstorms are possible in and near the watch area. Stay informed and be ready to act if a severe thunderstorm warning is issued.

Severe Thunderstorm Warning ─ Severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property.

30/30 Lightning Rule ─ You can tell how close you are to a lightning strike by counting the seconds between seeing the flash and hearing the thunder. For every five seconds you count, the lightning is one mile away. If you see a flash and instantly hear the thunder, the lightning strike is very close.

Despite the risk, everyone can take steps in preparing for severe weather. Explore the information below to learn more about severe weather safety precautions!

Cover photo courtesy of Douglas County

Banner photo courtesy of NOAA

Within text photo courtesy of the Fort Collins Office of Emergency Management

Before

  • Build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
  • Identify a safe shelter location – a basement is best, followed by interior rooms on the lowest level of the building away from windows. Mobile homes are often unsafe in a tornado – identify a neighbor’s house or public shelter where you can go if a tornado warning is issued.
  • Secure outdoor objects that could blow away or cause damage during a storm.
  • Unplug any electronic equipment before the storm arrives.
  • Obtain a NOAA Weather Radio to receive alerts about impending severe weather.
  • Sign up for reverse telephone alerts for your county, and don’t forget to include your cell phone.
  • Make sure you have sufficient insurance coverage – including flood insurance, which is separate from your homeowners or renters policy.
  • Photograph or take video footage of the contents in your home in case you need to file a claim after a disaster.
  • Store copies of your important documents in another location, such as a bank safe deposit box.

During

  • Avoid contact with corded phones and devices.  Cordless and wireless phones not connected to wall outlets are alright to use.
  • Avoid contact with electrical equipment or cords. Unplug appliances and other electrical items such as computers and turn off air conditioners. Power surges from lightning can cause serious damage.
  • Avoid contact with plumbing. Do not wash your hands, take a shower, wash dishes, or do laundry. Plumbing and bathroom fixtures can conduct electricity.
  • Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches.
  • Do not lie on concrete floors and do not lean against concrete walls.
  • Avoid hilltops, open fields, the beach or a boat on the water.
  • Take shelter in a sturdy building. Avoid isolated sheds or other small structures in open areas.
  • If you are driving, try to safely exit the roadway and park the vehicle. Stay in the vehicle and turn on the emergency flashers until the heavy rain ends. Avoid touching metal or other surfaces that conduct electricity in and outside the vehicle.

After

  • Avoid downed power lines and leaking gas lines – report them to your utility company.
  • Watch out for overhead hazards such as broken tree limbs, wires and other debris. Be cautious walking around.
  • Notify your family that you are safe – phone lines may be down, so be prepared to send text messages.
  • Make sure gutters and drains are clear for future rain/flood events.
  • Check the property for damage and if there is damage, take photographs/videos of the damage as soon as possible.  Contact your insurance company to file a claim.
  • Watch your animals closely.

More Information:

References, Resources and More Information:

  • Ready.gov – Thunderstorms and Lightning
  • NOAA Watch
  • Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association
  • Thunderstorms, Tornadoes, Lightning…Nature’s Most Violent Storms
  • National Weather Service
  • NOAA – Facts about Lightning
  • NOAA – Lightning Safety
  • National Fire Protection Association – Lightning Fires and Lightning Strikes

It Happened Here

On the night of July 20th, 2009, a powerful storm hit the northwest suburbs of Denver, dumping an inch of rain in less than an hour and dropping hail one-inch in diameter. Winds of 80 miles per hour uprooted mature trees; the storm damaged numerous cars, windows and roofs. The storm also left 50,000 residents without power. The Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association (RMIIA) lists the July 20th storm as one of the costliest hazard events since 1990 in terms of insured losses in the Rocky Mountain Region. RMIIA has identified $767.6 million in damages from the storm.

Fast Facts:

  • Lightning often strikes outside of heavy rain and may occur as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall.
  • Of the estimated 100,000 thunderstorms that occur each year in the U.S., about 10 percent are classified as severe.
  • A study in the Denver area found that 1 out of every 52 lightning flash results in an insurance claim.
  • The chance of being struck by lightning in the U.S. in a given year is 1 in 500,000.
  • Colorado averages 529,000 lightning flashes per year.
  • Flash floods are the number one thunderstorm killer; lightning is second.
  • The energy from one lightning flash could light a 100-watt light bulb for more than 3 months.
  • How close is the lightning?  Find out about the 30/30 lighting rule below!

Earthquake

Did you know that there was a 5.3 magnitude earthquake in Trinidad in 2011?

All 50 states and all U.S. territories are vulnerable to earthquakes.  Most people are surprised to learn that earthquakes occur right here in Colorado.  Even though Colorado is considered a region of minor earthquake activity, many uncertainties exist because of the very short time period for which historical data is available.

Some earthquakes in Colorado occur naturally; some are caused by human actions.  Natural earthquakes occur when two blocks of the earth suddenly slip past one another. Humans can also trigger earthquakes through activities including oil and gas extraction, reservoir impoundment, fluid injection, or mining. 

Earthquakes strike suddenly, without warning, and they can occur at any time of the year, day or night.  Earthquakes can be felt over large areas, although they usually last less than one minute.  During an earthquake, remember to DROP, COVER and HOLD ON. Drop to the floor and get under something for cover, then hold on until the shaking stops.

Explore the information below to learn more about what you can do to stay safe in the event of an earthquake!

Cover and banner photos courtesy of FEMA/Adam Dubrowa

Within text photos courtesy of the Colorado Geological Survey

Before

  • Secure heavy furniture, shelves and pictures that could fall during an earthquake.
  • Store breakable items such as bottled foods and glass in low, closed cabinets with latches.
  • Store weed killers, pesticides, and flammable products in low, closed cabinets with latches
  • Brace overhead light fixtures and top heavy objects.
  • Repair any deep cracks in ceilings or foundations. Get expert advice if there are signs of structural defects.
  • Be sure the residence is firmly anchored to its foundation.
  • Check gas line connections to furnaces, stoves and other appliances to ensure they have flexible connectors and replace as needed.
  • Locate safe spots in each room under a sturdy table or against an inside wall.
  • Hold earthquake drills with your family members: DROP, COVER and HOLD ON.
  • Build a family communication plan. Although an earthquake can disrupt communications, it is possible some services will not be impacted or will be impacted less severely.
  • Designate a family meeting location and alternate location. You may not be home when an earthquake occurs, so make sure each family member knows where to meet.
  • Have an emergency kit for each family member, including food, a three-day supply of water, toiletries and any special care items each person needs.
  • Have family conversations to discuss your emergency plans and how each member can work together to keep everyone safe. Practice your plan several times each year.

During

  • Drop to your hands and knees to keep the earthquake from knocking you over.
  • Get under a sturdy table or desk and at a minimum, cover your head and neck (your whole body if possible).
  • Hold on to your shelter (or your head and neck) until the shaking stops.
  • Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall.
  • Stay in bed if you are there when the earthquake strikes. Hold on and protect your head with a pillow, unless you are under a heavy light fixture that could fall. In that case, move to the nearest safe place.
  • Do not use a doorway unless you know it is a strongly supported, load-bearing doorway and it is close to you. Many inside doorways are lightly constructed and do not offer protection.
  • Stay inside until the shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Do not exit a building during the shaking. Research has shown that most injuries occur when people inside buildings attempt to move to a different location inside the building or try to leave.
  • Do not use the elevators.
  • Be aware that the electricity may go out or the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.

After

  • When the shaking stops, look around to make sure it is safe to move, then exit the building.
  • Expect aftershocks. These secondary shockwaves are usually less violent than the main earthquake, but can be strong enough to do additional damage to weakened structures and can occur in the first hours, days, weeks or even months afterwards.
  • Help injured or trapped individuals. Remember to help your neighbors who may require special assistance such as infants, the elderly and people with access and functional needs. Give first aid where appropriate. Do not move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger of further injury. Call for help.
  • Look for and extinguish small fires. Fire is the most common hazard after an earthquake.
  • Listen to a battery-operated radio or television for the latest emergency information.
  • Only use the telephone for emergency calls.
  • Stay away from damaged areas unless your assistance has been specifically requested by police, fire or relief organizations. Return home only when authorities say it is safe to do so.
  • Don’t drive unless absolutely necessary. If you must, be careful when driving in the aftermath, and anticipate traffic light outages.
  • Open cabinets cautiously. Beware of objects that could fall off shelves.
  • Put on long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, sturdy shoes and work gloves to protect against injury from broken objects.
  • Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, gasoline or other flammable liquids immediately. Leave the area if you smell gas or fumes from other chemicals.

More Information:

References, Resources and More Information:

  • Ready.gov – Earthquakes
  • Red Cross – Earthquake Preparedness
  • Colorado Geological Survey – Earthquakes in Colorado
  • United States Geological Survey – Earthquakes
  • Earthquake Country Alliance
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency – Earthquake
  • National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program

It Happened Here

On August 22, 2011, a magnitude 5.3 earthquake struck approximately nine miles southwest of Trinidad, Colorado. Significant damage to buildings occurred in the towns of Segundo and Valdez, 15 miles west of Trinidad. Forty-six structures were damaged and two residences were condemned.

Fast Facts:

  • The first pendulum seismoscope, which measures shaking ground, was made in 1751.
  • There is no earthquake season; they can happen at any time of the year.
  • The largest earthquake to hit CO was in November 1882 and registered as a 6.6 magnitude.
  • Most earthquakes occur at depths of less than 50 miles from the Earth’s surface.
  • Smaller earthquakes often follow the main shock.

Winter Storm/Blizzard

Did you know that winter storms are referred to as “deceptive killers?”

This is because most deaths are indirectly related to the storm.  Fatalities may occur due to prolonged exposure to the cold, which leads to hypothermia or in traffic accidents on icy roads. 

Every area in Colorado has the potential to be impacted by severe winter weather. Some winter storms are large enough to affect several states, while others affect only a single community.  Winter storms can range from a moderate snow over a few hours to a blizzard that lasts for several days.  Blizzards are severe winter storms that consist of blowing snow and wind resulting in very low visibility.  In Colorado, blizzards may occur anytime from fall to winter, and even into the spring. 

Additionally, familiarizing yourself with the terms below may help with what to expect so you can properly prepare.

Winter Weather Advisory ─ Winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous. When caution is used, these situations should not be life threatening.

Winter Storm Watch ─ A winter storm is possible in your area. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for more information.

Winter Storm Warning ─ A winter storm is occurring or will soon occur in your area.

Blizzard Warning ─ Sustained winds or frequent gusts to 35 miles per hour or greater and considerable amounts of falling or blowing snow (reducing visibility to less than a quarter mile) are expected to prevail for a period of three hours or longer.

Frost/Freeze Warning ─ Below freezing temperatures are expected.

Despite the risks of winter weather, there are several measures you can take so you aren’t left unprepared ─ read the information below to learn about what you can do during Colorado’s winter months!

Cover photo courtesy of FEMA/Michael Rieger

Banner photo courtesy of FEMA/Liz Roll

Within text photo courtesy of the Colorado National Guard

Before

  • Be familiar with winter storm watches and warnings.
  • Service snow removal equipment; have rock salt on hand to melt ice on walkways and kitty litter to generate temporary traction.
  • Winterize your vehicle and keep the gas tank full. A full tank will keep the fuel line from freezing.
  • Make sure you have sufficient heating fuel as regular fuel sources may be cut off.
  • Insulate your home by installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic from the inside to keep cold air out.
  • Have safe emergency heating equipment available such as a fireplace with an ample supply of wood, or small, well-vented, wood, coal or camp stove with fuel.
  • Keep pipes from freezing by wrapping pipes in insulation or layers of old newspapers, covering the newspapers with plastic to keep out moisture, and letting faucets drip a little to avoid freezing ─ know how to shut off water valves.
  • Have disaster supplies on hand, in case the power goes out. Include a flashlight and extra batteries, portable, battery-operated radio and extra batteries, a first aid kit, a one-week supply of food (include items that do not require refrigeration or cooking in case the power is shut off), a manual can opener, one-week supply of essential prescription medications, extra blankets and sleeping bags.
  • Develop an emergency communication plan in case family members are separated from one another during a winter storm (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school) and have a plan for getting back together.
  • Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the “family contact” because after a disaster, it’s often easier to call long distance.  Make sure everyone knows the name, address, and phone number of the contact person.
  • If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home ─ set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.

During

Inside

  • Stay indoors and dress warmly.
  • Listen to the radio or television to get the latest information.
  • Bring pets/companion animals inside during winter weather. Move other animals or livestock to sheltered areas and make sure that their access to food and water is not blocked by snow drifts, ice or other obstacles.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing.
  • Close off unused rooms to conserve heat.
  • Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.

Outside

  • Dress warmly and wear loose-fitting, layered, light-weight clothing. Layers can be removed to prevent perspiration and chill. Outer garments should be water repellant. Mittens are warmer than gloves because fingers generate warmth when they touch each other.
  • If you go out to shovel snow, do a few stretching exercises to warm up your body. Also take frequent breaks.
  • Protect your lungs from extremely cold air by covering your mouth when outdoors. Try not to speak unless absolutely necessary.
  • Avoid overexertion. Cold weather puts an added strain on the heart. Unaccustomed exercise such as shoveling snow or pushing a car can bring on a heart attack or make other medical conditions worse.
  • Be aware of symptoms of dehydration.
  • Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
  • Keep dry and change wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses all of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly.
  • Remember to help your neighbors who may require special assistance – Infants, elderly people and people with disabilities.

After

  • Continue to protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia by wearing warm, loose-fitting, lightweight clothing in several layers. Stay indoors, if possible.

More Information:

References, Resources and More Information:

  • Ready.gov – Winter Storms and Extreme Cold
  • NOAA Watch
  • United States Environmental Protection Agency
  • Colorado Department of Transportation
  • State of Colorado Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and CDC
  • American Red Cross – Preventing and Thawing Frozen Pipes
  • Red Cross – Winter Storm Preparedness

It Happened Here

On December 19th, 2006 the National Weather Service issued several snow advisories indicating that a majority of the State was to be covered with 18-24 inches of snow between the morning of December 20th and late afternoon of December 21st.

By mid-evening, December 19th, the northeast region began receiving snowfall, which was followed by mid-morning, December 20th, in the Denver metropolitan area. By that evening, government, school, business and highway closures occurred due to the intensity of the storm. Nineteen to 40 inches of snow were received, depending upon the area.

Fast Facts:

  • Wind chill is not the actual temperature, but rather how wind and cold feel on exposed skin.
  • Approximately 25 percent of all winter related fatalities are people that are caught off guard out in the storm.
  • 70 percent of the fatalities related to ice and snow occur in automobiles.
  • Winter storms are referred to as “deceptive killers.”

People with Disabilities

People with disabilities face unique challenges when developing disaster plans. Disabilities can vary widely across a broad spectrum of medical and other physical considerations. Because of this diversity, the resources provided will address these considerations individually. Planning resources will address the following topics:

  • Communication disabilities
  • Children with disabilities
  • Visual disabilities
  • Mobility disabilities
  • Links to more information and resources
  • Tips for building a personal support network

Personal Plan

One of the most important steps you can take in preparing for an emergency is to develop a household disaster plan.

Family Communications Plan

This checklist provides information to help your family plan for the fact that they may not be together when disaster strikes. The Family Communications Plan helps you to detail how you will contact one another and review what you will do in different emergency situations. This checklist has important information about each family member (such as Social Security Numbers and important medical information). Communications Cards can be completed and carried by each family member so that they have easy access to important contact information, wherever they may be.

Household Plan

This checklist will help you to learn about community-specific risk information, a household evacuation plan, and how and when to shut off water, gas and electricity. In addition, this plan will help you to identify important documents that should be in your disaster preparedness kit, such insurance policies for home, life, and health.

Printable Kits

You can open a pdf version of the emergency kits below to complete your own emergency kit, save it on your local device and print it!

  • Water
  • Food
  • First-Aid Supplies
  • Tools & Emergency Supplies
  • Clothes, Bedding & Specialty Items
  • People with Disabilities