Odessa College Occupationational Safety and Health Flash Flood Essay


The Big Thompson River starts high in the Rocky Mountains and flows eastward down the Continental Divide’s eastern side. Much of the Big Thompson Canyon is steep-walled and rugged. From its source near Estes Park, Colorado, to its mouth, west of Loveland, the Big Thompson drops more than one-half mile.
On Saturday, July 31, 1976, the Big Thompson Canyon weather was beautiful, with a small chance of an afternoon or evening thunderstorm. Because 1976 marked Colorado’s100th anniversary of statehood, a large crowd, estimated at between 2,500 and 3,000 people, was at or driving toward Big Thompson Canyon.
Late in the afternoon, a thunderstorm formed over the headwaters of the Big Thompson River. By about 6:00 p.m., the storm was dumping heavy rain on the area. The storm remained stationary for 3 hours, dropping more than a foot of rain – eight inches falling during one 2-hour period.
The heavy rain quickly filled the river, turning its typical two-foot-deep flow into a wall of water19 feet high. As the water raced downstream, it destroyed everything in its path – recreation and commercial buildings, homes, and U.S. Highway 34, which was the only road to exit the canyon.
After reading the scenario, apply the problem-solving model to decide what might have been done in this situation. Be sure to answer the following questions: 

Would you send anyone up the canyon to warn others? Why or why not?
What is your ethical responsibility to the public and responders?

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