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Historic Colorado Floods

by Wayne Thompson & Bill Bonekemper

October, 2013

Unimaginable Destruction, Pain and Suffering

and Enormous Rebuilding Costs

Take a moment and try to visualize the scope and magnitude . . .

  • 1500 homes – virtually equivalent to every home in Estes Park, CO destroyed, gone, obliterated
  • 18,000 more homes - virtually equivalent to every home in Loveland, CO with significant internal and external damage
  • A total of 400 miles of roadways washed out or significantly damaged – the equivalent distance from Denver to Santa Fe
  • 35 bridges either destroyed or significantly damaged
  • Of course the worst of all is the loss of human life, the pain and suffering and the financial hardships that have been and will be endured for months and years to come

Unfortunately it seems as if these kinds of weather-related natural disasters are becoming all too common and much too frequent, and they are taxing the souls, spirits and pocketbooks of many U.S. citizens from coast to coast.  The power and devastating forces of the Colorado Mountain flooding last month was truly unprecedented with property destruction estimated to exceed two billion dollars. Federal, state, county and local officials are now scrambling to assist property owners and public works personnel with the mind boggling task of funding, prioritizing and repairing and rebuilding an unimaginable number of destroyed or damaged properties.  But, the resilient, strong and capable people of Colorado will prevail.  In time, the roads will be repaired, bridges will be rebuilt, and property owners will repair and rebuild.  Many have already started the process.

One such rebuilding story is well underway.  CTL Thompson, a civil engineering and materials testing company, was recently contacted by Advanced Technapiers, a Fort Collins-based foundation repair specialty company, to assist with the engineering and foundation repair design of a significantly damaged house located in the foothills.  

As can be seen from the photo, the floods were so forceful that the soil beneath the foundation was eroded away (along with a support pile), leaving the house balanced on the remaining soils.  Not only did the flood take away the good support soils, but it deposited weaker, silty soil in its place.  While inspecting the site, CTL probed the soft soil to try to find better bearing. Based on the probes, competent material was encountered about four feet below the remaining ground surface, which was already about four feet below foundation level.  Although the softer soil is not ideal for lateral support of piles, short term stability was the immediate priority.

Within two days of the first visit, the contractor mobilized to the site with helical piles from inventory and provided support under the corners where support had eroded away.  In this case, helical piles are an ideal solution due to fast mobilization and quick installation - even with difficult site access.

To date CTL is still working on a plan to provide permanent support.  That plan will involve more helical piles, import of new surrounding soil, and new support for the walkout level floor.  Completing repairs like this one can take longer than normal because the region is also dealing with a shortage of aggregate and concrete, as CDOT has priority on these materials for use in road reconstruction.

CTL Thompson is a Denver-based civil engineering, materials testing and helical pile testing and certification company with offices located up and down the Front Range region Mr. Wayne Thompson is the manager of the Fort Collins operation for CTL, and he can be reached at (970) 206-9455 or .