Boulder, Colorado, is no stranger to environmental shocks and stresses.
Devastating flash floods have hit the city — in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains — half a dozen times since 1890. Each one resulted in needlessly high death tolls and severe property damage.
After a sudden and massive flood in Big Thompson Canyon took the lives of 139 people in 1976, Boulder flood planner Gilbert White recognized that without major investment and planning, tragedy could strike again.
He led the charge to prepare for future flooding. Some of the mitigation efforts were significant innovations — like installing a bridge designed to swing out of the path of a rushing flood, instead of becoming dangerous debris. Others were small, such as lining streams with jagged rocks to redirect the energy of rushing water.
Last September, these measures were put to the test when Boulder was hit by another flash flood, the worst natural disaster in decades: