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Flash Flooding Concerns Grow After Last Year's Record-Setting Wildfire Season In Colorado

(CBS4)- Concerns after last year's record wildfire year in Colorado are shifting to flooding during severe weather season. In 2013, severe flooding ravaged parts of Colorado after wildfires.

Copter4 Sept. 17, 2013, Images of damage in Larimer County
Big Thompson Canyon after the flooding in September, 2103 (credit: CBS)

The Big Thompson River overflowed its banks, causing millions of dollars in damage in Larimer, Boulder and Weld counties. All of Colorado's 64 counties have areas that are prone to flooding.

A flash flood is a dangerous, sudden rise of water along a river or creek, in a canyon or over a stretch of land that is normally dry.

They're most often caused by heavy rain, but can also be a result of a dam break or a clog in the flow of water along a stream, such as an ice jam. Flash floods are also very common in and around burn scars after a wildfire. Areas experiencing drought conditions are also prone to flash floods.

River flooding is different from a flash flood because it can be predicted, sometimes up to several days in advance. They are usually caused by heavy rain or rapid snowmelt.

Historic Colorado Flooding In September 2013
Dave Thrush sent in this photo of Platte River flooding on Sept. 13.

In the major flood event of September 2013, we saw both types of flooding in Colorado. It started as a flash flood in the foothills and along Interstate 25, then turned into river flooding as waters traveled along Front Range waterways and into the South Platte River in northeast Colorado.

Most flood fatalities are caused by flash floods, and nearly half of all deaths are vehicle-related. A hidden danger when attempting to cross a flooded road is not knowing if the pavement beneath the water has been washed away.

Most vehicles can be carried by a foot or two of swiftly moving water. The force of water is so powerful that by the time a driver realizes they have made a mistake by attempting to cross a flooded road, it's usually too late.

This year, the focus is on the burn scars from the Cameron Peak, Calwood and East Troublesome fires.

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