TACOMA, Wash. -- Chris Curran and James Foreman carefully packed a wide array of scientific gizmos into a beefed up SUV and hit the road for a 20-hour trip into the middle of the Colorado flood zone.

The real work begins after the long road trip ends in the Fountain Creek Basin south of Colorado. Two and a half inches of rain in 12 hours wiped out homes, bridges and roads in the basin and claimed lives.

Curran and Foreman will gather measurements to guide the rebuilding of the region and make it more resistant to that kind of deadly storm.

They are hydrologists with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) office in Tacoma. The USGS is tasked with finding the high water marks of floods wherever they may strike.

USGS hydrologists were on the ground in the Chehalis Basin before the record flood waters of 2007 had receded. In big floods the measurement equipment gets washed away, leaving hydrologists to find the equivalent of the ring around the tub. They call it the high water mark, the new bar that flooded communities will need to rise above.

The team will also use survey and GPS equipment to find out how fast the water moved and where it flowed in Colorado. Their measurements will guide the rebuilding of roads, bridges, culverts and buildings in a way that will keep them dry during the next big storm.

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