Storm Mountain, Pinewood Springs residents refusing to leave; Larimer County warns of consequences

LARIMER COUNTY, Colo. - Larimer County officials say they have cleared 85 percent of those unaccounted for in the county, yet 139 people are still unaccounted for.

The task ahead is to go door-to-door and talk to each and every resident in the remaining area to see if they want to shelter in place or evacuate.

The Larimer County sheriff said about 120 people have decided to remain on Storm Mountain and about 73 people want to remain in Pinewood Springs.

Even though residents have been encouraged to evacuate because the roads getting into and out of the communities have been obliterated by flood waters, some residents are choosing to stay. They say they can handle life in the mountains, even if that means they won't have access to food or power for some time.

Sheriff Justin Smith explained, "For some of them, this is their life, this is their only thing. And what they asked me to bring back down was they appreciate the offers for federal assistance that would put them up in a hotel, but 'What would I do in a hotel? This is my life up here. I have to find a way to continue my life up here. I'm not asking for a lot, just the ability to take care of myself.'"

Smith, who met with Storm Mountain residents on Wednesday,  said about a third of the residents want to stay because they are independent people.

About 40 people banded together and rebuilt 1.5 miles of road on Forest Road 153, the sheriff said. They are very organized, meeting each day to discuss their plan for the day, he added.

Smith posted pictures of Drake and Pinewood Springs on his Facebook page to show evacuated residents that there is some improvement in the town's recovery, but the towns are still cut off and it may be months before they are connected to major highways.

The Larimer County Sheriff's Office warned residents that with fall snowstorms approaching in the fall, they may be cut off from the world for months -- not days or weeks. National Guard troops and search and rescue crews have brought in pictures of the damaged highways and roads in the Big Thompson Canyon to warn them that they will not be resupplied with food, and if they need medical help, they may not get it right away.

Authorities want to make sure that those who choose to stay behind are aware of the ramifications of their decision.

Chunks of road are still missing in the Big Thompson Canyon and concrete continues to fall from the highway.

The magnitude of the cleanup and recovery is daunting.

The sheriff's office said crews completed  60 percent of the river search on Wednesday and did not find anyone.

There are three confirmed reports of missing/presumed dead with the addition of a 46-year-old Drake man whose home was washed away. The two prior reports were of a 60-year-old woman and an 80-year old woman from Cedar Cove who also had homes washed away.

There have been 1,183 Larimer County residents evacuated by air and ground as of Thursday morning.

Residents are reminded that it is illegal to go around roadblocks, barricades or police tape, either by bypassing them, moving them or using alternate routes to get into the area. This applies to walking, biking or driving.

"Roads are not safe even if they appear to be. It is dangerous to be on closed roads and bridges. Violators will be ticketed," the sheriff's office said.

 

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