I’m sure if you’re like me, the term “monsoon” conjures up images of torrential downpours, typhoons, or maybe even hurricanes, but here Monsoon Season is a little bit different. 

What Is Monsoon Season?

Wikipedia describes the North American Monsoon is basically a pattern of increased thunderstorms and rainfall across the southwestern United States, typically between July and mid-September.

During Monsoon Season, thunderstorms are fueled by daytime heat and build up during the late afternoon-early evening. Typically, these storms dissipate overnight, and the next day starts out fair, with the cycle repeating again.

So, all “Monsoon Season” means is that we have daily afternoon thunderstorms? Well… yes. But it can also lead to something far more dangerous.

Flash Flooding

The National Park Service warns that thunderstorms with heavy rain can cause severe flooding in canyons during Monsoon Season. These storms can be powerful and sudden, causing water to rise quickly downstream from heavy rain, even when the parent thunderstorm is miles away.

Several of Colorado’s most destructive floods, including the state’s deadliest natural disaster, occurred during the monsoon season.

On July 27th and 28th, 1997, Fort Collins and surrounding area received nearly 14.5 inches of rain. In one 90-minute span, about 6 inches of rain fell, marking the heaviest rain ever recorded in a Colorado urban area. The flood killed five people, injured 54, destroyed 200 homes and caused more than $200 million in property damage.

The flood of September 2013 ranks among the worst natural disasters in Colorado history. It happened when a storm system stalled over the Front Range on September 9th, dumping nearly the equivalent of a year’s worth of precipitation over five days. Parts of Fort Collins saw 12 inches of rain. The flooding killed nine people, damaged or destroyed an estimated 2,000 homes and ripped up many roads in Larimer, Boulder and Weld counties.

Among the heavier casualties was U.S. Highway 34 — the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park — which saw 86% of the road destroyed. It took nearly five years and $300 million to repair the damages.

Be Aware During Monsoon Season

During Monsoon Season it’s not a bad idea to keep an eye on the sky, pay attention to the weather forecast, and check your smartphone weather app before heading into the mountains.

As history has shown us, monsoon-generated floods are infrequent, but when they strike, they can be lethal.