Starting on September 9, 2013, a slow-moving cold front stalled over Colorado, clashing with humid monsoonal air from the south resulting in heavy rain and catastrophic flooding along Colorado's Front Range from as far south as Colorado Springs and north to Fort Collins. By September 15, in some areas the rains resulted in peak accumulation totals (17 inches) nearing the normal annual precipitation total for Colorado (20.7 in). Flood waters spread across a range of almost 200 miles, affecting 17 counties. This historic flood took the lives of eight individuals, one from our home Town of Lyons, CO, with damage costs estimated to top $2 billion for the state; $50 million for the Town of Lyons alone.
(source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_Colorado_floods and the Redstone Review Aug/Sep, 2014 ed., Mayor's Corner)
A number of video projects are underway detailing various aspects of this historic flooding event. Virtually all of these projects focus on the destruction resulting from the flooding and the associated personal drama, impact, human courage and resilience, using video footage taken during and after the flood.
What's missing from these efforts is a compelling and understandable presentation of the meteorological and physical factors that contributed to this epic event. The majority of the communities most severely impacted by the flooding received significant, but not historic rainfall totals. The big news is what happened in the mountains and foothills upstream of these communities.
This project focuses on the Town of Lyons.
We'll create a video from our own computer-generated animations that detail the unique meteorological conditions that set up over Colorado prior to and during the event, illustrate the upstream components that played such a crucial role, (such as historic rainfall totals in the mountains and foothills of the Front Range), and simulate the resultant flooding in the Lyons community.
The goals of this project focus on two key priorities:
1) To produce a stand-alone mini documentary (10-15 min) including our own computer-generated animations based on documented rain data and flood information; adding graphs, voiceover, music, film footage and still images that document the epic September, 2013 flooding in the Town of Lyons, CO.
2) To place our computer-generated animations in the public domain for other filmmakers to include in their work.
We would like to begin October 1st and complete the work by the end of the year (2014).
Sample Visual Animation: Cumulative Precipitation Surface (Inches) Above Lyons, CO
Who benefits from this project if successful?
1) The Town of Lyons
There are multiple video and arts projects - current and planned - in the Town of Lyons to document the flood and its aftermath as the first anniversary of this epic event approaches. These video and art creations will be on display in kiosks throughout the Town, in the local museum, Town Hall, and Chamber of Commerce. Our computer animations will fill an important void in understanding the processes behind the event and will be incorporated into several of these projects. Thus by contributing to the fundraising success of this project, you will be benefiting other projects as well.
Filmmakers, here is a great opportunity! If you are producing your own film about Colorado's 2013 flood event and are incorporating a "what happened?" scenario, our computer simulations will be made available to you at no cost. We simply ask to receive credit for the animations you include in your productions.
3) You the Viewer
The 2013 floods rank among the most significant natural disasters in Colorado history. We'll technically and artistically show how unusual and epic this event was, so that we can better understand and make sense of this unfortunate disaster.
We believe that this project is a unique contribution to the flood dialogue and worthy of funding on KickStarter.
Our introductory Kickstarter video presented here (see top video), focuses on the hard-hit foothills community of Lyons, CO. It shows the upstream context in beautiful 3D terrain graphics and animates the rain event that produced the flooding that so severely impacted the Town. This is a sample of the kind of computer-generated animations we at Computer Terrain Mapping, Inc. and Spike Productions are capable of producing and exhibits the unique video presentation we intend for this to become.
Sample 3D Terrain Animation: Watersheds Above Lyons, CO
Our project mission details are outlined below:
1. Illustrate the broader geographic context of Colorado’s front range to orient the viewer to the physical setting in which the event took place.
2. Show the unique meteorological conditions over Colorado that caused the flooding event.
3. Simulate precipitation totals over time in the mountains above the Town of Lyons leading up to the catastrophic flooding in the Town.
4. Depict the flooding extents in the Town of Lyons, and compare this to the mapped 100-year and, where available, 500-year floodplains.
5. Produce a mini documentary (10-15 min); adding voiceover to help clarify the concepts presented in the animations, as well as music and film footage to bring to life the personal experience the animations cannot portray.
6. Place the computer-generated simulations we produce in the public domain for other uses.
7. Base all animations off of actual datasets, such as digital elevation models (DEMs) and aerial photography for the terrain, and NOAA NEXRAD (Next-Generation Radar) and surface precipitation data for rain totals.
8. If successfully funded on KickStarter, to start the project October 1st to be completed by the end of the year (2014).
This is our first project on KickStarter and we sincerely appreciate the opportunity, review and support from our fellow artistic and technological communities.
Computer Terrain Mapping, Inc. (CTM)
Cat Russell left a 16 year career in 2002 in the atmospheric sciences at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to start a home-based digital video company, Spike Productions, in Lyons, CO. At NOAA, she discovered a passion for producing slide shows documenting the scientific projects she participated in all over the world. It was exciting then to creatively combine science and art, analysis and natural beauty into a format that communicated to diverse audiences her experiences in a captivating way. The digital medium soon came into play and the slide show format gave way to the exciting and technical world of digital multimedia and film production.
Ed Russell is a computer scientist specializing in geographic applications. He has over 28 years of experience in computer mapping, GIS and remote sensing. An expert in applying computer technology to land use planning issues, Edward has developed and presented new and innovative techniques for visual and spatial analysis in areas such as conservation planning and siting of new construction to minimize visual impacts. He has served on numerous boards addressing issues including land use regulation, comprehensive planning, intergovernmental agreements, and parks and open space planning. He has worked in the geophysical and atmospheric sciences developing new techniques and software for terrain visualization and modeling. He is the author of the EdWare suite of GIS tools for terrain modeling and analysis.
Cat and Ed have lived together up Steamboat Valley in Lyons for over 20 years and experienced first-hand the traumatic and devastating affects of the flood. Because they have a small farm with goats, burros and feathered friends, they did not evacuate with the Town and soon became a refuge for stranded horses and chickens, and shared their home with a displaced friend until Christmas.
Funding Resource Allocation
Anyone who contributes to this project will be credited in our special "Thank you" section at the end of the stand-alone mini documentary video production. We also have rewards at the $25, $50, $100, $200, $500 and $1,000 levels. (Please refer to the right-side panel for details)
We sincerely appreciate all support for this project and will be overwhelmingly grateful to those who bring this first KickStarter project, which focuses on the Town of Lyons, to a successful fundraising goal of $10,000.
If we raise funds beyond this initial goal-amount, we will use the additional funding to broaden the scope from the Town of Lyons to other flood-damaged communities in neighboring Boulder, Larimer and Weld counties.
Which communities to address first will be determined by the amount of additional funds raised and data availability.
Risks and challenges
The kind of challenge we might encounter producing this project is not being able to obtain specific types of data, or having gaps in the datasets we do obtain. For example, we have obtained the NOAA NEXRAD (Next-Generation Radar) precipitation data for Colorado's northern Front Range before and during the flood event. We have since discovered that potentially significant rainfall originated from clouds below the height-range detected by the NEXRAD instrument and thus precipitation totals are underestimates of what actually occurred. To address this, we must either obtain near surface rain-total data for the same area and correct for this discrepancy or continue to use the NEXRAD data we do have with a disclaimer that the totals may be underestimated.
These kinds of challenges will be addressed as they are encountered and every effort of portraying actual scenarios of what occurred will be maintained to the best of our ability throughout.
These potential dataset gaps and how we will address them are summarized below:
1. Lower level (altitude) rainfall data. In its absence, we'll use NEXRAD for rainfall rate and reference that it's an under-estimate.
2. Flood extent data. We have FEMA's mapped flood extent that covers all of Lyons, but not all upstream locales. In the absence of mapped flood extent data, we'll use post-flood NAIP (1m res) imagery to estimate the flood extents.
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