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Rainstorm Safety Tips

DENVER, CO ­– Denver Public Works and Denver Parks and Recreation ask you to please be safe on Denver’s streets and urban trails this season!  Rainstorms in Denver are common throughout the spring and summer months. It is important to remember that floods caused by rain can occur anywhere, with floodwaters rising gradually or flash floods striking suddenly. Water's powerful force can easily overtake vehicles and people.

Safety tips for driving in heavy rain:

  • If you must drive in the rain, drive slowly and steadily.  Pull over and stop if it is raining so hard that you cannot see.
  • Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars, causing loss of control or possible stalling.
  • One foot of water will float most vehicles.
  • Two feet of rushing water can sweep away most vehicles — including SUVs and pick-ups.
  • Stay away from water that electrical or power lines have fallen into; electric current passes through water easily.
  • Stay off your cell phone unless you must report severe injuries or call for help.


Safety tips for walking or cycling on urban trails:

  • When rain is falling, it’s best not to walk or bike near a river or stream, even on Denver’s paved urban bike and walking trails; water flow can quickly increase and flooding can occur without notice.
  • Move to higher ground and never go into a culvert! If you are on a streamside trail during a rainstorm use the alternate trail up to street level to avoid underpasses and culverts.
  • NEVER take shelter in a culvert, under a bridge, or in an enclosed space, especially in low elevations by rivers and streams. Always go to higher ground out of the flow of water.
  • Do not walk or bike through moving water. Six inches of moving water can cause a person to fall.
  • If lightning is present, do not stand under or near an isolated tree or group of trees.
  • Never allow children to play around streams, drainage ditches or viaducts, storm drains or flooded areas.


Localized street flooding:

  • In underpasses and some areas that are geographical low-points, water cannot be expected to disappear down the storm inlets instantly; the pace and volume of the rainfall may be too quick and too great to immediately drain off. It takes time for the system to accommodate the rainfall.
  • If you know that your street tends to flood because it is located in a low point, be sure to move your vehicles to higher ground whenever rain is forecast.


Flooded buildings and basements:

Residents with flooded basements or buildings are advised to contact their insurance companies immediately to find out what cleanup and repair work is covered. Other recommended steps include:

  • Turn off the electricity at your building even if Xcel Energy has turned off the main supply line or power is out. Primary power may be restored when you are not ready.
  • Take pictures/videos and thoroughly document damages, cleanup, and repairs.
  • Open windows and ventilate well.
  • LOOK BEFORE YOU STEP: Floors and stairs can be covered with slippery mud and/or covered with hazardous debris.
  • ACT QUICKLY: Dry wet or damp areas within 24-48 hours after the flood with fans.
  • Obtain a copy of Repairing Your Flooded Home from the internet or a paper copy from the local Red Cross (303-722-7474) or Denver Office of Emergency Management (720-865-7600). This document explains steps to take to finish cleaning and repairing your building.


What you can do to help prevent flooding and keep your neighborhood clean, too:

  • Ensure street gutters and alleys are clear of trash and loose items that could potentially interfere with storm drainage.
  • Avoid placing trash and recyclables in bags or containers directly on drains and inlets.
  • Avoid placing your trash or recycling carts, trash bags, trash cans or loose items out early on your collection day, especially on days when rain is in the forecast. City rules prohibit trash or recyclables from being placed out for collection earlier than 7 p.m. on the day prior to collection and requires that emptied containers be removed from the collection location by 7 p.m. the day of collection.
  • When heavy rain is forecast, place trash and recycling bins and items at the end of your driveway close to, but not in, the street to keep the gutter flow line clear and to avoid spillage due to heavy water flow.
  • Do not rake leaves, grass clippings or yard debris into the street or alley or put them down an inlet.
  • Never, ever throw lawn clippings and other yard debris into a gulch or stream. Call the Wastewater Management Division (303-446-3400) if you see dumping or debris in a drainage way.


Downed power lines/cables:

Stay clear of downed lines and report them immediately to Xcel Energy at 1-800-895-1999. If a power line has fallen onto a vehicle, stay away from the vehicle. Seek help immediately by calling 911.


Natural gas line damage:

Natural gas service lines are buried throughout the city, and they can sustain damage in times of heavy rain and flooding. If you smell natural gas (the odor is similar to sulfur or rotten eggs), it may indicate a gas leak. Immediately leave your home or outside area with gas odor. Once safely outside or away from the area with the odor, call Xcel Energy at 1-800-895-2999 to report your concern. Avoid using anything that has the potential to create a spark. Do not smoke, turn on or off lights, turn on appliances, use garage door openers, start a car, or use phones in an area where gas may be present.


Downed branches:

  • Property owners are responsible for cleanup of debris from trees on private property and from trees within the public right of way adjacent to their property.
  • If you have general questions about the condition of a public-right-of way tree, you can contact Denver Forestry for an opinion at
  • For trees on private property, citizens can visit for a list of licensed and insured tree care contractors.  It’s a wise practice to make sure any tree care contractor is licensed and insured.
  • If emergency removal of a fallen branch is needed to clear a street, the city can assist though an established on-call contract; however, the cost of the work will be billed to the responsible property owner.

Denver Solid Waste Management collects a limited amount of branches as part of its regular trash collection service. Branches must be no larger than 4 inches in diameter, and they must be cut into lengths of 4 feet or less, bundled and tied, and weigh no more than 50 pounds.

To report significant flooding issues in Denver, please call 3-1-1