How a storm the size of Harvey would impact Colorado

DENVER -- Rainfall totals from tropical storm Harvey are shocking. Houston has received more than 52 inches of rain so far.

Denver likely will never see rainfall even close to that amount, but what would happen if Harvey ever happened in the Mile High City?

David Mays, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Colorado Denver, pondered how Denver would be impacted by a storm such as Harvey.

"We are not as flat as Houston. We would not have the same kind of widespread flooding they have," he said.

Mays said if a storm such as Harvey hit Denver, covering a widespread area, neighborhoods along the South Platte River would be impacted first because that's the lowest point in the city.

Tributaries that flow into the South Platte would also flood.

"It would be streams like Cherry Creek, Bear Creek, Boulder Creek, particularly up in Boulder. Boulder has always had to manage a recognized flood risk," Mays said.

Colorado's biggest rainstorm came in September 2013 when 17 inches fell on parts of the state. That rain fell over a period of about two days. Houston has received almost 52 inches over four days.

"There's a big difference here and that's our mountainous terrain," said Kevin Klein, Colorado's director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Klein managed Colorado's response to the 2013 floods. He said Houston's challenges in the wake of Harvey will mirror what Colorado experienced, but on a much larger scale.

"It's a huge recover operation that takes years and years. We're halfway through ours," Klein said.