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With most of El Paso County in a persistent drought, it is hard to imagine a time when there was too much rain in El Paso County. However, the floods of 1935 and 1965 took the county by surprise.In 1935, the entire month of May had been rainy, but normal temperatures and only a chance of occasional showers were forecast. Before noon on Memorial Day, May 29, several storm cells combined into a single cell that stalled north of Colorado Springs. The rain began pouring down, and Monument Creek began to rise.As rain continued to fall, a crest of water swept through Colorado Springs ñ then a city of 30,000 residents ñ destroying all the bridges across Monument and Fountain creeks, except the Bijou Street viaduct. Dozens of homes were lifted from their foundations and moved as far as 400 feet.At its peak, water flowing through Fountain Creek was measured at 35,000 cubic feet per second.Monument Creek swelled to a depth of 32 feet and expanded to a width of half a mile at the place where the pedestrian bridge now leads to America the Beautiful Park.Hundreds of people gathered on a bluff above Monument Creek to watch Colorado Springs Fire Department firefighters struggle to save a couple stranded on the roof of their car, which was floating in the creek.The crew tried to reach the couple by extending an aerial ladder, but a telephone line was in the way. A firefighter severed the line, but the sudden release of pressure snapped the ladder in two just 12 feet from its bottom. The man and woman were eventually swept downstream, clinging to the roof of their car.Never found, they were listed among the 18 who died in the storm of 1935.One man was luckier. He was swept away after taking refuge in a filling station on South Nevada Avenue but he grabbed hold of a log and rode it all the way to Fountain.North of Falcon, heavy rain caused Kiowa Creek to jump its banks, flooding the town of Elbert and destroying the railroad tracks between Elbert and Eastonville.The railroad company decided not to rebuild the tracks. Train service that once connected Falcon to Denver ceased, and the decline of Eastonville, which had begun with the potato fungus a few years earlier, escalated.The 1935 flood was classified as a 100-year flood, meaning that in any given year there is a 1 percent chance of a flood that size.Just 30 years later, in June 1965, another flood slammed the area, surpassing the water flow measured from Fountain Creek in 1935. This time, the creek measured 47,000 cubic feet per second ñ the highest on record.The storm was part of a severe storm system that passed through Wyoming, eastern Colorado and New Mexico.Tornadoes swept a path between Brighton, Colo., and Monument, and baseball-sized hail was reported in Douglas County on June 15. Flood waters washed out a bridge in Castle Rock, and several truck drivers were never found, supposedly drowned.In Bijou Basin, 10 miles north of Peyton, 12 inches of rain in four hours eroded hillsides, flooded the basin and deposited 3 to 4 feet of sand over the hay fields of the Welker Ranch, originally homesteaded by Z. L. Holden in the 1800s.After the flood, the only way to reach the basin was by four-wheel drive on a path bladed through the sand.The West Bijou Creek also flooded a nearby house up to its ceiling and deposited 4 feet of sand inside. Eventually, the water tore away two bedrooms and swept the family’s cook stove and china closet outside, along with nearly everything else they owned ñ clothing, housewares and family photographs all washed away.The family’s tractor, however, met a different fate. It was buried in sand so deep that only the smoke stack was visible.An elderly aunt was home at the time and saved herself by climbing a tree, where she was found hours later, scared but alive.The family dug the sand out of the house, made repairs and moved back in along with most of the contents of the china closet. Of all the china pieces that had been brought from Slovakia when the family came to the United States, only one was broken.The 1965 flood washed out or heavily damaged county bridges as well as railroad bridges, leaving Peyton residents isolated as water rushed through the town’s streets.Tourists, truckers and other motorists ñ about 275 in all ñ were stranded and spent the night in the Peyton school, where they ate food and slept on bedding donated by Peyton townspeople, many of whom were forced to abandon their homes because of high water.Eventually, a deputy sheriff from Colorado Springs made his way to Peyton through pastures and over a weakened bridge, and organized a convoy westward.Anyone wanting to go east had to wait for county and state road crews working two shifts around the clock to repair Highway 24 east of Peyton.The rushing water also tore huge chunks of cement from a railroad bridge east of Peyton, leaving the ties and rails dangling several feet above what was once the railroad bed.One rancher south of Peyton found casing from his well wrapped around a tree and figured the water must have been 8 feet deep.Four days after the storm hit Colorado, Dodge City, Kan., with only a slight amount of rain, experienced the worst flood in its history as the Arkansas River carried water from the Rocky Mountains to the Midwest.Fourteen people drowned and at least two other deaths were attributed to the storms and activities related to the 1965 floods. Damage was estimated at about $56 million in Colorado and Kansas, and $5 million in New Mexico, where Raton and Las Vegas were hardest hit.Four years before the flood of 1965, the town of Peyton and the surrounding area was struck by a severe hailstorm consisting of sharp pieces of ice instead of the usual round stones.It was a warm but windy day in June. About 6 p.m., a black rolling cloud appeared out of the north accompanied by a roaring noise.The hail hit so hard it broke all the north and southwest windows on homes and businesses and shredded curtains. Roofs were destroyed and siding badly damaged. Vegetable gardens were demolished, and it took trees four years to recover from the onslaught.It was later reported the storm had been a ìbabyî tornado.

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