Thursday, June 7, 2012

Epic Storm

Oh hail!
What the hail?
Holy hail!

A Car Submerged in Hail
Up to four feet of hail accumulated in this area.
Source:  KOAA News

All of the above expressions were no doubt used in Colorado Springs, Colorado, last night after a hail storm of epic proportions not often seen to this degree hit the area.  Thankfully, those of us forty miles south did not get hit by the storm.  I have seen a lot of really bad hail storms and summer rain storms in Colorado Springs during the years I lived there, but I have never seen anything quite this bad before.  The car in the photo above is submerged in a sea of hail.  Flash flooding occurred during the terrible rain storm that lasted over an hour.  When the rain mixed with the heavy hail there was an immediate freezing of the water.  Many of those stuck in their cars in this frozen river of hail when rescued by the firemen were treated for hyperthermia.  The storms occurred throughout the area, but they were most damaging in a central area of the town,

One of my earliest memories is coming home from a vacation in the mountains to a flooded out basement at my childhood home in Colorado Springs.  I remember many times that the major street right in front of our home became a virtual river that flooded up onto the front yard of our home when I was growing up,  Colorado Springs is a city of many small creeks and dry creek beds.  They seem totally harmless until a quick moving storm hits with a vengeance.  Then, these creeks become potentially deadly.  As a native of Colorado Springs, I know this about my hometown and am always cautious and try to use good judgement when these storms hit.  Burned in my mind of pathways of past flash floods.  I try to avoid these areas when these summer storms hit.

According to the mayor of Colorado Springs, of nearly four inches of rain fell in two hours in parts  Colorado Springs last evening.  He stated that this was "equivalent to a 100 year storm."  That much rain and golf ball size hail falling that long creates a very scary situation that happens quite without warning.  Along with the rain and the hail comes the wind.  This caused many downed trees.

The downed trees bring up another memory from childhood.  A huge cottonwood tree once stood in our front yard.  During one of these storms, the tree was uprooted and fell south and spanned nearly the entire street on which our house was located.  My mother has the newspaper article about this event.  The photo shows that huge tree blocking Boulder Street.  If it had fallen in the opposite direction, it would have crushed our home.

Hail occurs nearly yearly in Colorado.  Some storms are bad and do a lot of damage.  Others are not nearly as bad.  While I hate being home during a hail storm because of the sound of the hail hitting the roof as I watch the damage done to trees and flowers, I am always thankful I am not out in a car or walking during such sudden storms.

Nearly 25 years ago, I had just driven onto the grounds of the Air Force Academy during a rain storm when, after I had just entered the south gate entrance, hail hit.  It was virtually impossible to drive because I could not see where I was going and the road was quickly being submerged under a combination of hail and water.  Immediately, I pulled to the side of the road to sit out the storm.  I will never forget the terror I felt as I sat there alone in the car listening to the golf ball size hail pound my car.  It sounded as if someone was viciously throwing buckets full of golf balls at my car with great force.  I worried that the wind shield would break and that the car would suddenly be swept away.  Thankfully, the storm passed, I was not injured, and I was able to go on my way to my destination of a friend's home who lived in Air Academy officer housing.  My car was totalled.  I received a handsome check for it, and I continued to drive it for years.  I was single at the time, so the money came in very handy.  I always said I was hit with an act of God on my way to a Bible study.

Another time, just a few years later, I was headed out of Colorado Springs via Ute Pass through the mountains on my way to Utah to attend my daughter Keicha's wedding.  I had just put all new tires on that same car I was driving on the Academy.  A terrible rain and flash flood started as I made my way down Colorado towards Manitou.  At 30th and Colorado, the rain waters flooding from the mountains down Colorado, and from 30th from the Garden of the Gods area came together to form flooding that obliterated the street.  I literally could not see where the street was.  I decided to turn into a gas station to wait out the storm.  I did not want to attempt the mountain pass in the rain.  Unfortunately, I could not see where the curb was because of the rain, and I hit it with full force.  My new tires were ruined.  I had to call a friend to come and rescue me.  He and a tow truck hauled me and the car back to Sears where I again had to put on new tires to make my trip to Utah.

This same friend, picked me up one evening to take me to a play at the Pikes Peak Center in Colorado Springs when a hail and rain storm hit with a vengeance.  I had actually just started dating this gentleman and did not know him too well at the time.  As we were driving in the storm toward the arts center, Neveda Street became a river.  My friend had a hard time navigating through the rushing water and hit a curb he could not see when we were in front of Colorado College.  He pulled in a driveway, took off his coat, tie, and shirt and got out to change the tire.  He didn't want to muss up his coat and shirt before attending the play.  He was of course plummeted by the hail as he changed the tire, but luckily he was not hurt.  I sat demurely in the car and waited for him to fix the problem so we could get to our destination.  I did have an umbrella, but it was of little help to him.  We were a bit late to the play,  and he was very wet, but we enjoyed watching Baby Doe on stage despite all the mishaps along the way.

Some say they are surprised by the flooding that storms bring to Colorado Springs.  I am not surprised, I am just amazed at the damage that can happen so quickly and without warning.  Today, there is rain in the forecast.  I hope it is not heavy.  I worry about the melting of the hail, the soaked earth, and more rain because there could be more flooding.  Pueblo also must be on alert.  We are down hill from Colorado Springs.  The water from Fountain Creek that runs from CS to Pueblo will no doubt cause flooding here.  We are advised to stay away from the trails next to the creek which is only about a mile from our house.  Sometimes, after these storms it truly becomes a raging river that overflows its banks.

If you want to see more photos from this storm in Colorado Springs, go to this link:  KOAA News.