June 3, 1921: What started out as just another day in June in Colorado in 1921, rapidly turned into one that would never be forgotten in the town of Pueblo, Colorado. A cloudburst enveloped the town the afternoon of June 3, 1921. During a typical cloudburst, over half an inch of rain may fall in a matter of minutes, and that is exactly what happened in Pueblo, creating devastating consequences for the heart of the town where the Arkansas River and Fountain Creek meet. At about the same time the rains were drenching the downtown area, there was another downpour about 30 miles north over Fountain Creek. As the torrential rains fell, the Arkansas River and Fountain Creek quickly began to swell, reaching over 15 feet in some areas before they began to recede. Within two hours from the start of the storm, the business district of Pueblo was flooded with water 10 feet deep. The entire Arkansas Valley, from 30 miles west of Pueblo to the Colorado–Kansas state line, was severely impacted. Hundreds of people died, with some death toll estimates as high as 1,500. The flood destroyed almost all of the downtown Pueblo area and decimated the city. Once the floodwaters receded, the immense damage became all the more visible. The flood, which covered over 300 square miles, carried away over 600 homes and caused upwards of $25 million $350 million in 2020 dollars. Railroad passenger coaches and freight cars were swept away in every direction or smashed into kindling. A fire even broke out in a lumberyard and burning lumber was carried throughout the city’s streets by the flood. The floodwaters also carried away entire buildings and businesses. Many of the dead were likely carried far down river and never recovered.
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