Saturday’s storm brought significant moisture to the Pikes Peak Region. How significant, exactly? A whopping 1.36 inches of rain in Colorado Springs and over 3.18 inches reported in neighboring Pueblo.
This may not seem like much, but as Colorado residents know, local moisture tends to fall in one intense burst of rain, hail and high wind. When paired with burn scars and dry conditions, one inch of rain becomes a dangerous force of nature.
We did the math — that’s 6.6 feet higher, in just one hour. That’s taller than many NBA players. (Of course, when there’s a flash flood, no human is left standing. Just six inches of fast-moving water can knock down an adult. Flash floods are forceful.)
At its peak discharge, the Fountain Creek Station at I-25 and Nevada Ave. was reporting over 4000 cubic feet per second (up from a mere 70 cubic feet per second measured one hour earlier). We did the math again — that’s nearly 30,000 gallons of water per second.
How does this impact the homeless community?
For people living on the streets, intense summer heat is amplified by asphalt, metal and concrete in the downtown area. It radiates off those surfaces. With the breeze blocked by buildings, it becomes unbearable in a hurry. For homeless men and women, it’s common to retreat to shaded parks and the cooler temps in creek beds. It’s a natural response to the heat — and a decision that can turn deadly in a matter of hours.
Many of the homeless camps in the downtown Colorado Springs are located along Fountain Creek.
These camps are rampant with drug and alcohol use. So, when a homeless individual — let’s say “Bob” — chooses to set up his tent at the creek, and then does heroin, things get dangerous.
Bob immediately gets a euphoric high that makes him feel safe and warm. The gentle stream, breeze and lower temperature add to the euphoria. On the tail-end of his high, he nods off. Not a nap, but a heroin-induced state that could render him useless for a few hours. During this time, he has confusion and slowed mental processing.
Fifteen minutes later, Bob wakes up in his tent and it’s filling with frigid water. His camp was a few feet away from the bank, but it’s already been overtaken. The waters have risen 1.5 feet in that short time. That’s enough to control a small car, so Bob’s tent is already on the move. After a few moments of struggling, he manages to unzip and escape his tent. Before he can comprehend what is happening, he’s pulled into the raging creek, turned small river. The large debris, sediment and undercurrents are too much to physically handle in his altered state of mind.
6.6 feet of rise last Saturday — that’s over four times what “Bob” experienced.
While Bob is fictional, this is a very real scenario. Springs Rescue Mission is located near Fountain Creek. We hear stories of people who were living on the banks and the injuries that have resulted from extreme weather.
Our low-barrier shelter and New Life drug addiction recovery program welcome those in greatest need from throughout Colorado Springs. Doors are always open when the extreme weather hits. With the support of partners, donors and city leaders, we can shelter 450 men and women per night on our campus.
We can’t change the weather. But like local weather experts teach, we must be prepared for anything. When a homeless man or woman in our city is ready to escape the ‘current’ of poverty or addiction, the Mission is here.