Record rain, record flood: A timeline of the July 1997 flood

This documentary was created by the university to document the 1997 flood and recovery efforts. 

July 27, 1997

5 p.m. – After a mostly dry July, torrents of heavy rain begin northwest of Laporte. The storm expands southward into Horsetooth Reservoir.

6:30 p.m. – Heavy rain mostly stops. The air remains humid.

Midnight – Southeasterly winds behind a cold front push more moist air against the eastern foothills.

 July 28, 1997

1 a.m. – Steady rain develops, at first limited to a narrow band along the foothills.

2 a.m. – Rainfall rates in excess of 1 inch per hour develop northwest of Laporte. Residents wake up to standing water.

8 a.m. – After early morning letup of overnight rains, a brief, soaking shower catches Fort Collins morning commuters. To the northwest, major flooding begins around Laporte.

Noon – Skies remain cloudy over the Fort Collins area Monday afternoon. Dewpoint temperatures hover in the low 60s.

6 p.m. – A first wave of heavy showers moves into Fort Collins. Rain increases with hourly accumulations of close to 1 inch in southwest Fort Collins.

7 p.m. – Rainfall rates approach 3 inches per hour, according to a rain gauge at the CSU Foothills Campus.

8 p.m. – Flooding of homes and streets in Fort Collins intensifies. The water is 2 feet deep at Elizabeth and Shields streets. Flow rate along Elizabeth is comparable to that of the Poudre River.

8:30 p.m. – Extremely heavy rain falls locally over a few square miles approximately at the corner of Drake Road and Overland Trail. Rainfall totals for a 90-minute period exceed 5 inches. The heaviest-hit area includes the Spring Creek watershed.

9:30 p.m. – The National Weather Service issues a flash flood warning for Larimer County.

10:30 p.m. – Floodwater bursts open the Lory Student Center’s west doors.

11 p.m. – The water level in a nearby mobile home park rises 5 feet in 3 minutes. Five people die. A train derails. A gas leak causes an explosion south of Prospect Road and east of the railroad tracks.

July 30, 1997

Summer classes are back in session on campus.

August 1997

Fall classes at CSU begin on time.

September 1997

A picnic is added to President Al Yates’ annual fall address to thank the campus and community for its resilience in the wake of the disaster. The tradition continues today.

Read more about the 1997 flood.