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Hydrologists measure water levels as state begins to identify destroyed dams

9:43 PM, Sep 16, 2013   |    comments
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DENVER - Data from water levels will likely reveal record breaking measurements, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

"This is something I haven't seen before," USGS hydrologist Bob Kimbrough said. "Seeing it in my home state is heart breaking."

Kimbrough and a team of USGS hydrologists are currently keeping track of water flow measured by approximately 60 gauges in the flood area. A handful of gauges have been lost in the flood.

Kimbrough said it's possible the data will show the flood had a 1 percent chance of occurring in Colorado. In layman's terms, that chance is known as a 100-year flood.

"It's the flood that has a 1 percent chance of occurring in any year, not the flood that occurs every 100 years," Kimbrough said. "You can have a 100-year-flood three years in a row."

While scientist are collecting their data, the state is busy taking a look at what dams that have been destroyed and what dams need to be inspected.

"We've got over 500 dams that we need to go out and quickly take a look at to make sure they're safe or confirmed they failed during these flooding events," said Bill McCormick, the director of Colorado's Dam Safety Program.

McCormick says, so far, his agency has identified eight dams that have been destroyed, including the Meadow Lake Dam in Larimer County and the Havana Street Dam on the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge. Both of those dams are described as "minor" and "low hazard," meaning if they failed on their own, there wouldn't be loss of life.

Six other identified destroyed dams are smaller - less than 10 feet high and are on private property.

It's likely the number of identified dams that have been destroyed will go up in the coming days and weeks as inspectors catalogue what's out in the field.

McCormick says the larger dams have been holding up.

"The ones with the higher consequences, those have all responded well," McCormick said.

Have a comment or tip for investigative reporter Jeremy Jojola? Call him at 303-871-1425 or e-mail him

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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