Drought to Flood

By Derf Soller, agronomist, Northwest Region
September 16, 2013

The Rocky Mountain region has seen its share of weather turmoil this year, and this is continuing in Colorado with the recent record rains and flooding – actually more like yearly record rains all in one day!

Flooding took place this early summer (again) in North Dakota. Record-setting heat and humidity arrived in Utah in mid-summer. Record-setting heat and low humidity found their way to Idaho, followed by large forest fires. Wyoming prairies were greener than most years as a result of frequent heavy rains. The Calgary, Alberta, area also experienced record rain and snow melt causing unprecedented flooding. South Dakota had some hot weather, but did have some timely rains.

All of the areas suffered turf loss of some kind on the golf courses, but surely the impact to local communities has been even more of a burden. The current flooding in Colorado will likely be felt for a long time by courses and residents alike. Rain totals for one day almost exceeded what is received for an entire year in many Front Range areas. Drought-stressed soils and normally dry creeks were inundated with a huge deluge. Over 11,000 homes have been reported damaged, with over 1,200 destroyed. Severely damaged roads and bridges have made travel impossible in many areas. As of this writing, the flooding in Colorado alone has impacted an area larger than the size of the state of Connecticut.

Many golf courses will likely face a long recovery period, but it is too early to tell just how much and to what degree damage has occurred, as flood waters will need to recede before any evaluations can take place. Superintendents and course officials may not even be able to get to their courses for some period of time because of all the road and bridge damage. The local Rocky Mountain Golf Course Superintendents Association (www.rmgcsa.org) is reaching out to try to get an assessment as to the damage at each course, as well as starting to hear from fellow superintendents as to how they may help those who have had damage to their courses.

As flood waters recede, trying to move silt off of putting greens will likely be a priority, if staff is able to get to the course, and if there is power available to run irrigation systems to power hoses. Recovery efforts on courses in other states that experienced flood damage included reseeding large areas of turf and cleaning up vast amounts of debris. Eventually the courses in the region will be able to recover but it will take time and a lot of hard work. 

Source: Derf Soller  (dsoller@usga.org)

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