Hang In There, Colorado

The Kelly Letter Excerpt
The following is from this year’s Note 47 of The Kelly Letter, which went out to subscribers this morning.

The part of Colorado I call home is underwater. Half a year’s worth of rain fell in just three days last week, and 24-hour totals of 10 inches have some calling the deluge a 1 in 1,000-year event. My mother’s property in the mountains, where I grew up and nearby which I own property, is not reachable by phone or regular internet. Thanks to a neighbor’s satellite connection, we were able to verify that my mother is fine and getting through the torrential rains with her emergency stock of food.

My brother working for the town of Estes Park sent photos of roads I know by heart blown out and businesses owned by friends swamped. I saw aerial shots of Boulder, where I lived while attending CU, showing familiar neighborhoods reduced to rows of rooftops on a lake of muddy water. The town of Lyons, at the base of the Rockies and home to our family postal address, was completely evacuated by the National Guard on Friday. A resident who fled with his fiancee told the Associated Press, “There’s no way out of town. There’s no way into town. So, basically, now we’re just on an island.” My sister, Emily, closed down Red Frog Coffee to hunker down at her house in Longmont until the waters subside.

These types of natural disasters are on the rise. It was just a little while back that people in the same area battled raging forest fires. One of them this summer was the most destructive on record in Colorado. The state has also suffered the devastation of its pine trees, the majority of which succumbed to a type of beetle that used to die in the cold of winter but survived recently mild winters to expand its infestation range by 400,000 acres and kill 70 pct of the state’s lodgepole pines. Colorado’s Rockies have become a hot, dry place scarred by dead trees and fire blackness, with occasional downpours that wipe out people and infrastructure.

Boulder houses some of the top weather and climate research institutions, including the Earth System Research Laboratory and the National Center for Atmospheric Research, both of which were forced to close due to flooding. They’ve previously reported that air carries a higher level of water vapor than it used to because of its newly higher temperature, and warned that “extreme precipitation events” will occur even as annual rainfall drops in some areas. They also noted that, coincidentally, Colorado and their own offices are located along a dividing line between an area of the US where precipitation is on the rise and another where it’s on the wane.

Thus, they called for swings between droughts and floods. Indeed, last year was Colorado’s second-driest on record, followed by the warmest springs and summers on record, all of which caused an acute drought that was finally starting to ease when the rain began. Nobody is worried about drought now. Instead, they’re worried that phrases like “1 in a 1,000-year event” are outdated, to be replaced by simply “annual event” or an even higher frequency. Emergency responders have done a good job in Colorado’s fires and floods. If society can’t be motivated to slow the rising incidence of such disasters, let’s hope it at least finds the resources to keep supporting the responders and communities forced to deal with their escalating impact.

News arrives differently when it’s not about strangers in strange places, like most news. It’s my mother stranded in her home, my brother pulling power lines from water, my sister closing her shop, and my road in need of repair. Hang in there, Colorado.


Also In The Letter:

The market was cheered higher by diminished Syria worries when Russian President Vladimir Putin KO’d the Obama administration by turning a wayward comment by Secretary of State John Kerry into US policy. …

Apple continues confirming our forecast that, without Steve Jobs, it would lapse into tweaking instead of inventing. It has. Last week’s new product announcements were met with a global yawn. …

John Linehan at T. Rowe Price is bullish on both Apache and Kohl’s. …

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5 Comments

  1. Dennis Page
    Posted September 15, 2013 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

    In response to your comment about increased water vapor in our atmosphere, water vapor is the single most powerful greenhouse gas in our atmosphere. Clouds is our best defense by reflecting sunlight.

  2. Ann
    Posted September 16, 2013 at 1:55 am | Permalink

    I pray for your family in CO, Jason. I came from Greeley and also have family in CO. Several in Morgan county. Some of those had to flee from their home at 3:00 in the am. I remember when Big Thompson canyon flooded. The devastation and the deaths. It breaks my heart to see this happen again.

    • Posted September 16, 2013 at 9:05 am | Permalink

      Mine, too, Ann. If recent accelerating weather trends are sustained, however, I’m afraid we’re going to have to learn to live with it.

  3. Posted September 16, 2013 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    I sure hope the Nederland Dam doesnt break! I lived there for a few years as well as Boulder and have many fond memories.

  4. Posted September 16, 2013 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    Sorry to hear about the big floods in your hometown.

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