University History

University History 1997 Flood

Published July 2007

On the evening of July 28, 1997, a flash flood ripped through Fort Collins and the Colorado State University campus without warning.

Car floating in CSU parking lot

The Engineering parking lot on the north side of campus on July 28, 1997.

In a matter of hours, normally ankle-deep Spring Creek became a roaring, brown river of mud and debris. Five people drowned south of campus when water swept them from their mobile homes. Estimated damages citywide were in excess of $200 million.

Known as the "Spring Creek Flood of '97," the flash flood resulted from a series of heavy thunderstorms over a two-day period in west Fort Collins. Torrential rains began Sunday night, July 27, dumping 4-6 inches of rain in the area. The next night, with the ground already saturated, a second round of even heavier storm formed in the same area. Meteorologists later described these storms as almost tropical in nature. More than 10 inches of rain fell from 5:30-11 p.m. the second night.

Extensive flooding occurred citywide. The rainfall set records for the largest 1-day, 3-hour and 6-hour precipitation totals in the CSU gauge, even though the instrument was not located at the storm's center.

Colorado State University campus suffered millons of dollars in damages to buildings and property. Morgan Library and the Lory Student Center were among the hardest hit, losing books, computers, and furnishings. Fortunately, no people on campus suffered serious injuries or death.

Better and stronger university

Ways to promote a sense of community had long been sought at Colorado State, but it was adversity that made this goal a reality. Resourcefulness, patient resolve, and generosity typified the behavior of nearly everyone associated with or concerned about CSU in this time of crisis.

Solid planning, efficient implementaion, and extraordinary work, ultimately made CSU's campus better. Within a few days of the flood, more than 600 workers and six main contractors descended on campus. The cooperative spirit and the determination to prevail in the face of disaster, were the defining qualities of the CSU community.

More about the flood

  1. Downpour Turns Into Nightmare
  2. CSUPD Dispatchers Narrowly Escape
  3. Lory Student Center Inundated
  4. Morgan Library Wall and Foundation Explodes
  5. Academic Offices Annihilated
  6. Shocking Journey To Campus
  7. The Morning After
  8. Logistics and Communication Challenges
  9. Bureaucratic and Fiscal Hurdles
  10. Library Opens for Fall Semester
  11. Heavily Damaged Lory Student Center Renovated
  12. Faculty Move On
  13. Theater and Music Programs Suffer Heavy Losses
  14. President Yates Issues a Challenge

Historical information

Flood Video
  • Historical account and photos - a history of the flood compiled and edited from Democracy's University - A History of Colorado State University 1970-2003, written by James E. Hansen II (University Press of Colorado, 2007).
  • Documentary video - 10 minute video documenting scenes of the flood and recovery.
  • Photo gallery

Additional Information

CSU Press Releases

City of Fort Collins

Research

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