Rescues begin in Larimer County where high water has people stranded

FORT COLLINS, Colo. - A family of three and their dog were rescued Friday morning, Larimer County reports. Sheriff Justin Smith said many people were stranded throughout the county after waters rose unexpectedly high overnight.

"We do know that there are people stranded throughout Larimer County. Up and down. Whether it’s the rivers, by creeks, whatever, we've got people stranded. We simply can't get in there."

The rescued family and dog had been trapped along County Road 47.

"Thanks again Colorado National Guard," the Larimer County Sheriff's Twitter account said.

Because teams haven't been able to access the isolated areas, Smith said there was no count of the total number of stranded people or damaged properties.

A National Guard helicopter flew over and briefly interrupted the news conference. Smith said air assets like that would be instrumental in gathering information.

Another National Guard resource Smith discussed are military police who were deployed to assist deputies and officers at some of the many checkpoints in Larimer County. Several of those checkpoints were moved overnight.

"We had estimates of pretty high river flows. By late night or early morning, those (flow rates) had been revised up about 50 percent about Poudre Canyon and the Big Thompson Canyon," Smith explained.

But there was good news Friday morning.

"We've seen the rain slow down and that's given us some breathing room. In fact, we started today at a lower water level in Lake Estes than we started yesterday," said Kara Lamb, spokeswoman for the Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the Colorado Big Thompson Project.

Lamb said the project was doing all it could to move water out of the Big Thompson Canyon. Their options were limited because of volume of water flowing through, but she was careful to say all the dams are "doing exactly what they are designed to do."

Lake Estes received heavy rain and Lamb said some of the water was directed to reservoirs. The majority of the water was sent into the Big Thompson Canyon.

The flow into the canyon peaked at 5,280 cubic feet per second, but Lamb said the current flow rate is much less -- an estimated 4,180 cubic feet per second.

She explained a cubic foot of water was roughly equivalent to the size of a basketball and would weigh about 80 pounds.