Colorado preppers face many of the same threats as anyone else in America: civil collapse, EMP, natural disasters, etc. However, Coloradans have unique challenges than preppers in other states. What makes sense for a prepper in Maine may not make sense for a prepper in Alaska. This applies to Colorado as well.
This article will focus on Colorado from a prepper’s perspective. What specific challenges does the state face from a historical perspective? What are the threats given the state’s geography? Where should Coloradans prioritize their preps?
NOTE: Do you live in Colorado? You know your state, so let us know in the comments section how this article can be improved. What did we miss? What did we get right?
Table of Contents
Colorado Overview – Prepper’s Perspective
Known as the “Centennial State”, Colorado is known throughout the world and rightfully so. With half of its territory residing in the Rocky Mountains, Colorado is well known for many outdoor adventures and sports. Due to Colorado’s climate, the state is the nation’s top ski destination. In fact, 21% of all overnight ski visits take place in Colorado and account for about a quarter of the $18.6 billion revenue tourism generated in 2014. It is safe to say, that Colorado is a place of many people’s dreams.
Geographically diverse, Colorado is situated in the southwest of America and shares the border with Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Utah. Residents can find deserts and mountains alike to accommodate a variety of lifestyles and interests. Those residing in Colorado can enjoy living on a farm or ranch and easily traveling to pristine ski slopes or hunting big horn sheep in the desert. Of all the states in the United States of America, Colorado offers more for the outdoorsman than most others.
However, Colorado is not only a wilderness. The state boasts a population of 5,7 million and its capital, Denver, is one of the most popular cities in America with a population of 727,000 residents. Denver is the 19th most populated city and the 5th most populous state capital in the US. Furthermore, these residents are heavily educated. Colorado holds 2nd place in the nation for undergraduate degrees held by residents.
In terms of economics, Colorado does not fail to disappoint. The state serves as the base for one of the world’s largest gold producers, Newmont Mining Corp., and ranks 3rd in the US for gold production. Colorado also is extremely self-sufficient. Up to a third of the state is situated on plateaus where it enjoys a robust agricultural industry.
Due to the wide-ranging variance in elevation and terrain of Colorado, there are vast differences in temperature and climate throughout the state. As times progress, it seems that these wild swings in temperature continually drift even further apart. In 2019 the state set a record 115 degrees F as the highest temperature ever recorded within its borders. While there are other states that can beat that record, when you consider the record low of Colorado is -61 degrees F, you gain a whole new perspective on how intense the variance is.
Though it is prone to extremes, on average Colorado has a cool, dry climate. Colorado enjoys an annual average temperature of 43.5 degrees F, which is 13.7 degrees below the global mean. It has an average precipitation level of seventeen inches, which is significantly lower than the global mean of thirty-eight. Residents and visitors of Colorado enjoy a mild climate with over 300 days of sunshine per year.
Food and Water
Colorado relies on precipitation from snow to supply water to its inhabitants. About 13.7 million acre-feet of streamflows are annually formed from precipitation alone. However, due to interstate compacts and agreements, only 5.3 million acre-feet are consumed within the state. Of this consumption, approximately 83% of the amount consumed is supplied by surface water, with the remaining 17% from groundwater.
However, despite the large population and robust tourism industry, agriculture is the largest consumer of water in the state. Though this has the potential to strain Colorado’s water supply, it is not without reward to the residents of the state. While consuming most of the water of the state, farming also produces the majority of the food consumed in Colorado. This allows the residents to enjoy lower food prices and self-sufficiency which is hard to find in our large, heavily networked modern economy.
The politics of Colorado has been a long, complicated tug of war between the right and left. While an old west state, it is historically conservative. However, with an uptick in population, the state has ceased to be red and slowly become more purple. Today, it seems to be becoming an ever increasingly liberal state. Currently, it is a left-leaning municipality that is solidly blue with Democratic control of the House and Senate.
The population of Colorado is 5.7 million but it is declining. This is largely due to fewer and fewer people moving to Colorado. With an uptick in the cost of living and the move to more remote work after the COVID-19 pandemic, Colorado is one of many states that is seeing a dip in their population as people move to more affordable areas and work online. While a population growth slowdown became evident as far back as 2015, it is not clear if this trend will continue or be reversed.
In terms of ethnic diversity, Colorado is very monolithic. The state’s population is almost completely white and Hispanic. Whites make up over two-thirds of the population with 68.1% of residents claiming to be of European descent. The robust Hispanic population consumes the majority of the balance of the ethnic pie and comes in at 21,5%. The balance is made up of a small Black (3.9%) and Asian population (3.1%).
The residents of Colorado tend to be slightly younger. The median age is 36.9 years which is two years younger than the national average. However, as the population growth trends increase, this age is likely to climb. The state also enjoys a nearly even split between males (50.25% and females (49.75%).
Ideologically, 64% of the state’s inhabitants identify as part of a Christian faith. Of these Christians, only 16% identify as Catholic leaving the vast majority to be evangelical protestants of varying traditions. The atheistic and agnostic “nones” make up almost the entire 36% of other people not declaring Christian faith. There are very few Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists in the state.
Colorado has a few potential natural disasters to be on the lookout for. Wildfires present the greatest danger by far. However, it is not the only thing that can happen in Colorado. Floods, winter storms, severe storms, droughts, and tornadoes are also fairly common in the Centennial State. Despite the mountainous terrain, they are less likely to experience landslides, earthquakes, and power outages.
Violent crime counts as any crime where you are a victim of rape, murder, robbery, or assault, and in Colorado, you have a 1 in 235 chance of being the victim of a violent crime. While the state has a below-average murder rate of 0.05 per 1000, they do have an above-average rape rate of 0.63 per 1000 people. The chances of becoming the victim of a property crime are about average for the United States. 1 in 35 residents of Colorado experience having their things stolen.
Colorado Natural Disasters
As with any western mountainous region, the regular maladies of flooding and fires are the main problems that Colorado faces. What is unique is that they have been known for the occasional twister as well. Some of the worst disasters that Colorado has faced over the past century have been brought on by extreme weather. While this is surprising for a state that is at such a high elevation, it is nevertheless true.
1) The Denver Flood (1965) – Nearly 60 years ago, a rare combination of earthquakes, tornadoes, hailstorms, and thunderstorms befell the greater state of Colorado. This led to massive flooding throughout Denver in an apocalyptic scene. 21 people lost their lives as the 250,000 acres flooded. After it was all done and over with, there was over $4 billion in damage and an untold number of lives were forever changed by the event.
2) The Thompson Canyon Flood (1976) – Colorado is no stranger to rain, and it seems to cause recurring pain in this state. One of the most deadly In 1976, Thompson Canyon was subjected to a torrential downpour that resulted in a cataclysmic flash flood. Around 8pm flood waters overtook a quiet, residential neighborhood and drown 144 people despite the heroic efforts of the local police. The final property damage was also incredible with $140 million in damages being caused by the floodwaters.
3) The Denver Hailstorm (1990) – One of the most interesting and terrifying natural disasters is a substantial hail storm. In 1990 a massive hailstorm with baseball-sized hail began falling from the sky, resulting in $1 billion in damages. This was the worst hailstorm Colorado had seen at the time. However, with the rise in temperatures and the state’s elevation, more are likely to plauge the state in the future. This was not the first devastating hailstorm and will likely not be the last.
4) The Hayman Fire (2002) – In 2002 a massive firestorm ended up burning down 138,000 acres, causing $40 million in damage, and forcing 5000 people to evacuate their homes. One civilian and five firefighters lost their lives in the state’s worst fire at that time. It was started by a forestry technician that was attempting to burn a letter to her estranged husband during a total burn ban. While it was eventually surpassed in size, the Hayman Fire lives on in the souls of those affected as a reminder of how devastating a fire can be.
5) The Windsor Tornado (2008) – In 2008, an EF3 tornado brought 165 mph winds on a 39-mile path of destruction that neared a mile wide at some points. While many think of Colorado as pure mountains that prevent such storms, the destruction left by the Windsor Tornado is a clear example of how that simply is not the case. The tornado killed one, injured 78, and caused $147 million in damage. The lesson to anyone living in Colorado is to be wary of the weather.
6) 2013 Front Range Floods – Due to heavy rain in September of 2014, massive flooding took place throughout large parts of Colorado. This was also in large part due to insufficient and a faulty dam system that didn’t manage the rainwater effectively. The rain, in large part, was simply far more than what The rain ended up causing $2.9 billion in damage, killing 8, and causing hundreds to simply have vanished without a trace.
Clearly, Colorado has its fair bit of challenges for a prepper residing there. While it is generally a great place to live, it is prone to extreme weather and earthquakes. What is most disturbing about Colorado is the speed at which things tend to happen. With little to no warning flash floods, tornados, and hail could very quickly change your life. Therefore, the prepper needs to keep the weather foremost in their mind. Having an eye for the weather and a plan in place will be crucial in a place that can very quickly kill you.
Colorado Prepping Strategies
Colorado presents many challenges when it comes to prepping. Floods and fire risks can be mitigated through proper preparation of your home. In the event a bug out situation presents itself, there are ample routes to take to pristine wilderness and safety. The main task for Colorado preppers is to build a robust intelligence system that keeps them informed and to make sure that their vehicle and home is ready for the next challenge that comes their way.
When selecting a home in Colorado, think through the impact that weather will have on you. Resist the urge to buy the cabin next to the mountain stream. While it may be beautiful, it will also kill you during a flash flood or destroy your home during a period of flooding.
Keep in mind that Colorado is having routine record-breaking high temperatures. This leads to unpredictable weather and enhanced runoff as the snow melts in the spring. Both of these factors can result in destroyed homes and lost lives if proper precaution is not taken. Therefore, it is vital to establish your home in an area that is naturally hardened to flooding.
Stay On Alert
The disasters that strike Colorado happen incredibly fast. One of the reoccurring trends of those that died in the disasters that struck is that they were always caught unaware of what was happening. Had those that were affected known that a freak storm or flood was coming, they would have stayed home and been safe. Developing a robust system of information inflows can be crucial to averting danger.
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A weather radio, social media feeds, and satellite internet can be the difference between knowing when to hunker down inside your home and when to go out.
Be Ready to Self Sustain
The floods, storms, and earthquakes that stop Colorado in its tracks are incredibly devastating. While you may be unaffected by the primary event, given Colorado’s self-reliance, you will almost certainly be affected by the secondary effects. Communications being down, power outages, grocery stores out of food, and water systems malfunctioning are all the downstream effects of cataclysmic events like those mentioned above. Having a robust food, water, and energy supply will be crucial to getting through the times when supply lines are strained or cut off.
One of the most important pieces of equipment for any prepper planning to bug out is to have decent maps of their state. Having an identified bug out location is crucial. All preppers in any state should begin their bug out plans with a paper map of their state. Nothing is better for all-purpose use than the DeLorme Atlas and Gazetteer.
- Delorme Colorado Atlas White Onesize
- Delorme (Author)
Keep a Map of Flood Zones
Flash floods happen incredibly quickly. By the time a rescue response has been dispatched, the flood is rescinded. In their short life, they have the ability to completely devastate entire towns. Therefore, if you intend on leaving your home, you need to know where the flood zones are. Luckily, Colorado provides robust terrain that canalizes flood waters fairly effectively. By identifying and plotting flood zones on a map, you can navigate away from those potential areas during adverse weather and be safe.
Get High, Stay High
A surprising feature of Colorado disasters is the rampant flooding and storms. Therefore, if you are going to leave your fortress and get to a better place, be ready for the water. That means you need to identify where the high ground is and keep to it.
While it may be difficult at first, keeping out of the lowlands where it is easier to traverse the terrain will prevent you from being exposed to a flash flood risk. Additionally, staying at the higher elevations will avoid the crowded roadways as Colorado has largely a young, nonnative population.
Verify Media Sources
One thing that caused much damage in the Front Range Floods a decade ago was the media misreporting things and causing a panic. It is important to remember that disaster situations are dynamic and the “fog of war” can set in with anyone very easily. Having a robust number of sources to cross-check each other with is crucial to good decision-making. Always remember the military maxim “the first report is always wrong” and you will avert making a decision too quickly.
Further Reading for Colorado Preppers
This article just scratches the surface of what Colorado preppers need to know. The following links could held educate you more on prepping in the state.
Colorado Preppers: Survivalist and Bushcraft: Facebook group centered around all things prepping, survival, and bushcraft.
Colorado Prepper Forum: Forum that is moderately active and concerned with prepping in Colorado.
Denver Preppers: MeetUp group that regularly gets together and exchanges prepping skills and ideas.
Wilderness Survival University: Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced Wilderness Survival Classes.
Boulder Outdoor Survival School: Hunter gather course, survival courses, and Wilderness Medicine Courses.
Colorado Mountain Club: Celebrated mountain survival course from organic Colorado mountaineering course.
Colorado Department of Emergency Management: Complete directory of state emergency response offices.
Colorado State Emergency Operations Plan: Complete government disaster response plan for any event.