DENVER – Heavy rain has brought much-needed moisture to Colorado's drought-stricken plains and has tested the recovery efforts in the foothill communities hit hard by flooding in September.
High winds from Tuesday night's storms that flooded streets up and down the populated Front Range were also being blamed for the death of an 84-year-old man in Vilas, in the state's southeastern corner, where farmers and ranchers have been dealing with drought for several years. The National Weather Service was investigating the strength of the winds that caused Donald Falconburg's trailer to collapse.
Elsewhere on the plains, 6 inches of rain fell in Eads, which sits between areas rated as having extreme and severe drought — the most dire rankings in the U.S. Drought Monitor.
To the north, in Lyons, volunteers helping the community northwest of Boulder clean up from last year's flood helped place sandbags Wednesday around a low-lying neighborhood to protect homes as rain continued to fall. The day's accumulations were mostly expected to be lower.
Quick moving afternoon thunderstorms typically draw up moisture from the Gulf of Mexico during the summer in the Southwest in what's called the monsoon, bringing needed moisture and temporary relief from the heat. But for two straight days, low and high pressure systems have combined with the monsoonal flow to lock in moisture and persistent cloud cover over much of Colorado and parts of New Mexico, allowing for much heavier rains.
Flood waters struck parts of Albuquerque and other New Mexico cities Tuesday. Forecasters said another storm system Thursday may bring more heavy rain there.
It's not unheard of to see such conditions develop in summer when various weather conditions coincide, National Weather Service meteorologist Kari Bowen said.
One such time was on July 31, 1976, when a slow moving thunderstorm created flash flooding in the Big Thompson canyon leading to Rocky Mountain National Park. More than 140 people were killed.