Pueblo County, Colorado
The 1921 flood photos were contributed by Barbara Conrad. The flood occurred on June 3, 1921.
The Plateau Voice Collbran Colorado 6-10-1921 - Pueblo, CO Cloudbursts Cause Terrible Flooding, June 1921
CLOUDBURSTS DELUGE WHOLE SECTIONS OF STATE
Death and Heavy Destruction Followed in the Path of the Cloudbursts and Consequent Floods which Swept Eastern and Northern Colorado Friday Night.
PUEBLO INUNDATED BY FLOOD WATERS
300 to 500 Dead in Pueblo, Property Loss Will Mount into Millions. City Under Martial Law, Cut Off From Water Supply, Light and Power.
Pueblo, Colo., June 3 -- The loss of life from the great flood which came upon the city of Pueblo from the flood waters swept from the Arkansas and Fountain rivers at 7 o'clock Friday evening is estimated at between 300 and 500 persons. The property loss will exceed $10,000,000.
Crowds were driven from the main bridges by police and guards. In half an hour, so rapidly did the torrents descent, water poured over the top railings of bridges.
Scores of people were caught as the flood entered Main street flowing south into Union avenue. Within two hours the entire wholesale district and a greater part of the business district were flooded with water ten feet deep. Many business houses and dwellings were set afire by burning timber floating from a flaming lumber yard.
One hundred persons were on the Fourth street bridge when it collapsed. Almost all of them are believed to have been lost.
Boats and improvised rafts were used for rescue purposes.
Yards of the Santa Fe railroad were wrecked by fifteen feet of water.
Three bodies have been recovered from the wrecks of D. & G. and Missouri Pacific trains which were overturned into the boiling floods of Friday night.
Exploration of the wrecked, mud-filled coaches was begun Sunday afternoon but was halted by the cloudbursts which sent the Arkansas on another rampage.
Five persons are believed to have perished in these wrecks instead of the hundreds originally reported. Still, the number cannot be given with any certainty until time has been allowed for a thoro[sic] search of the ruins.
The universal opinion is that even half the total loss of life never will be known. The current of the flood waters was so swift that bodies of persons drowned undoubtedly were washed down stream and many of them probably were buried in the sand banks along the river.
The counting of the dead in flood is pushed to background by necessity of guarding against disease and every available man is now being used in cleanup work.
At least 1,500 persons were fed by the Red Cross Sunday. For the first time there was a surplus of provisions. Cooking was done over big bonfires built in a vacant lot acoss[sic] from the court house.
For several days no wire communications could be had with the stricken city.
Officials of the Denver and Rio Grande refused to even estimate the time required to put the roadbeds in condition for traffic in the flooded areas. Numbers 3 and 4 are being operated between Salida and Ogden. Through traffic east from Grand Junction is being routed over the Union Pacific by the way of Salt Lake.
The Plateau Voice Collbran Colorado 1921-06-10
The Fort Collins Courier Colorado 6-3-1921 - Pueblo, CO Girls Drown In Cloudburst, June 1921-
Two Girls Drown In Cloudburst -
Farms Damaged in Pueblo County by Downpour; Families Driven to High Spots. -
By Associated Press
Pueblo, Colo., June 3 -- Edna Gray, aged 11 years, and Marjorie Gray, aged 3, children of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Gray of this city were drowned early today in a flood following a cloudburst.
Dry creek near where the family resided became a raging torrent and water entered the Gray home to a depth of several feet. Mr. and Mrs. Gray sought a place of safety with their six children. The father had little Marjorie by the hand and Edna was walking near him. A wall of water came down the creek and swept the little girl from his grasp. The other child also vanished in the water. Both bodies were recovered several hours later.
Several families living in the same vicinity suffered losses to property during the storm. Portions of houses were washed away and several families were marooned four hours.
Cloudbursts west of the city caused considerable damage thruout Pueblo county early this morning. The Arkansas river rose rapidly and swept over farms in low sections destroying crops and flooding many homes. Some families sought safety on high ground.
Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph 4-20-1961 - I Remember by Charles S. Dudley - The Colorado Springs Evening Telegraph scooped the world on the Pueblo flood, June 3, 1921. It was a terrible flood, causing loss of lives and $20 million of property damage. There was also great excitement in Colorado Springs. Fountain and Monument Creeks were high and some damage resulted here. But it was when Monument Creek poured into the roaring Arkansas River that a wall of water hit Pueblo with deadly force. The railroad yards there were turned into a lake. Roads between Colorado Springs and Pueblo were washed out. A railroad bridge between the two cities was left so shaky that it was considered unsafe to operate a locomotive over it. Telephone and telegraph connections were lost. There was no way to find out anything definite about the fate of Pueblo. The Telegraph chartered an airplane and sent Ford Frick, now national baseball commissioner in New York, then a Telegraph reporter, south to cover the story. He literally covered Pueblo, for he flew over the city, saw the destruction and noted the areas of the city that were under water, but could not land. The pilot saw no place where he could set the plane down. When Frick returned those at the Telegraph office got him a soap box and, standing on it, he described what he had seen to a crowd that choked Pikes Peak Avenue in front of the Telegraph building. Across the street the morning Gazette, for which I worked at the time was as deserted as a graveyard. Some of us asked Manitou Ege, then manager of that paper, if he was going to send an airplane. He did not say that he was. Then a telephone call came that a Santa Fe detective - I seem to remember Mike Grant, but am told that it was probably Tom O'Leary - was going to try to get across the damaged railroad bridge with a handcar, and that he would take a Gazette reporter with him if the paper wished to send one. Ege did not wish to do so. He was undoubtedly thinking of our safety. "How will the Gazette get the news of the flood?" we asked Ege. "We'll use the Associated Press report," he replied. The Associated Press report, of course, was what Frick was saying across the street. That was the first approach to the big news of the Pueblo flood. We went across the street and listened in to what Frick was saying and made notes - a chagrined bunch of news gatherers. Later the late H. L. Standley, Colorado Springs mountain scenery photographer, flew over Pueblo and took pictures. There was still no way to get down into that city, and there would have been no way to get up out of it if the pilot could have landed the plane. The big Colorado Springs flood that tore out all bridges in the city but the Bijou Street bridge and the small one over Fountain Creek on South Eighth Street, which was buckled, occurred on Memorial Day in 1935. Before that the Pueblo flood was the worst flood that had occurred in Colorado. The extensive rehabilitation and flood preventative work that followed it is to be seen today in high concrete channel walls for the Arkansas River. In Colorado Springs at the time of the Pueblo flood the city had suffered heavily from continuous rains. Ruxton Avenue in Manitou Springs was badly washed and there was property damage along Shooks Run and Monument Creek in Colorado Springs. As the flood waters subsided Colorado Springs was the first city to organize a relief expedition to Pueblo. The National Guard was ordered to the stricken city. That flood was big news for many days. But the Evening Telegraph was first out with it.
Colorado Springs Gazette - 6-7-1992 - Many Lives, Buildings Lost in Pueblo Flood - Peek at the Past, a weekly historical feature, runs Sundays in Lifestyle. In it we reprint stories from the past, preserving the language, sensibilities and prejudices of the day. The following story, excerpted from the Colorado Springs Gazette, reports the worst flood in Pueblo history. After a cloudburst, the Arkansas river flooded the lowlands and downtown area, reaching a depth of 21 feet, 4 inches at the area of the Riverside school, while carrying away more than 600 houses and causing $20 million in damage. More than 150 people died. June 5, 1921 - Pueblo's district tonight is a mass of wrecked buildings. Its streets are deep in mud from the Arkansas river, which yesterday overflowed its banks, bringing the worst flood in the history of the city. The death list probably will mount into the hundreds when toll is taken of the wrecked residences and rooming houses in the river bottoms. A trip over the city by airplane revealed a zone of disaster. Residences had been toppled over, railroad passenger coaches and freight cars had been swept in every direction or smashed into kindling. Blackened ruins showed the location of fires started last night by burning lumber from a lumber yard floating thru the streets in the flood tide. It looked as if a third of the city had been in the flood district. All persons were prohibited from entering the district without a permit and then only up to 7 o'clock. Scores of persons were detected looting stores as the flood poured its way into the streets last night. A hundred shots were fired at the looters by soldiers. Two morgues tonight held 132 bodies and scores of dead were discovered in wrecked buildings where their recovery was impossible because of mud and debris. The force of the flood carried entire buildings down the stream and it is believed many of the dead were carried far down the river and may never be recovered. The first warning of yesterday's flood came shortly after five o'clock, telephone messages which said that dams near Portland were threatened and the water in the Arkansas River had risen dangerously at Westmore, Portland and Florence. The fire department siren sounded 15-minute flood warnings and within a short time every available police officer and guardsman was sent into the West Peppersauce river bottoms of West Pueblo to warn the inhabitants. People were slow to leave and many refused according to soldiers. One woman dragged from her home before the flood-crest reached the bottoms, crawled under the house and refused to come out. It is feared a heavy loss of life resulted in this section. Scores of people were caught as the flood entered Main street flowing south into Union avenue. Within two hours the entire wholesale district and a greater part of the business district were flooded with water 10 feet deep. The Pueblo Chieftain, located off Main street, had only a three-day supply of print paper in the building. This was water-soaked, and with no power to operate the linotype machines or press it was unable to get out an edition. Handbills, set and operated on hand-operated machines, gave meager reports yesterday. One old man, 75 years old, remained all night in a tree in the north part of town, and was rescued yesterday afternoon. He said he had seen nearly a hundred people perish during the night. Another man, whose name was not secured, watched over 50 squatters, Mexicans and Italians, washed away thru the section just below Union avenue. They were carried into the giant stream. The mud and sand being carried downstream will perhaps cover them and bury them under the foundation.
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