Boulder Creek swelled into a raging river overnight on Wednesday.
Ben Fluellen, who’s homeless, was sleeping outside the library near the creek when it topped its banks, waking him rudely.
"I was sleeping around 11:45 pm, and I got splashed in the face with a tidal wave of it," he said.
He grabbed his blankets and waded through shin-high water to a little higher ground. He and about 30 other homeless people spent the night at the community’s bandshell nearby. The water there was only a few inches deep.
Anngeria Williams was sleeping in her aunt’s apartment in Boulder when firefighters knocked on the door and told them to evacuate about 2 o’clock Thursday morning. She couldn’t believe what she found when she stepped out the door.
"The water was as high as that car door’s handle," she said. "There was cars flipped over. We couldn’t walk in the parking lot. ... It was scary because I never seen nothing like that."
Her family found shelter at the YMCA, where the Red Cross offered cots and food.
The flooding closed CU Boulder Thursday. More than 300 graduate students and faculty housed near Boulder Creek have been moved to higher ground. About twenty undergrads were displaced. Spokesman Bronson Hilliard says most buildings on campus had water in their basements.
"We’ve not seen anything like this. We’ve got pretty widespread flooding on the campus. It’s not severe flooding on the campus proper," Hilliard said. "What we’re seeing is a lot of basement and ground floor level minor damage, carpeting, flooring."
That also was the case for some people in off-campus housing. Senior Chrystina Crown says the house where she lives ended up with two inches of water in the basement.
"There’s three bedrooms down there, so they get fresh carpet and a new bathroom tile," she said.
She says they had a little fun and took advantage of the water to create a slip-and-slide in the basement.
CU Boulder remains closed Friday, with more rain in the forecast.
Boulder Creek was just one danger area. Sheriff Joe Pelle says walls of water washed through the entire county.
"The difference with this storm is, it is impacting every drainage in our county, from the St. Vrain all the way to Cold Creek Canyon," he said. "We’ve lost structures, homes, cars, in all of those drainages."
State climatologist Nolan Doesken says at the height of the storm more than an inch of rain was falling every hour.
"The average precipitation in the south end of Boulder where the official station is, is somewhere in the 18-20 inches-per-year range," Doesken said, "so this is at least a half a year’s worth of precipitation falling in a short amount of time."
Doesken says the slow-spinning storm is bringing very moist air from Mexico, rarely seen along the Front Range.