LARIMER COUNTY, Colo. — More flash flooding could occur across Larimer County Wednesday following Tuesday’s flooding and mudslides around the Poudre Canyon area.
The National Weather Service in Boulder issued a flash flood warning for Larimer County and the Cameron Peak Fire burn scar until 4:30 p.m., with the possibility of up to an inch of rain falling in 30 minutes or less. A flash flood warning remains in effect for northeastern Grand and southwestern Larimer counties until 6:15 p.m.
The flash flooding Tuesday prompted evacuations along Highway 14 from Rustic to Ted’s Place.
“It gets your heart pounding,” Susie Rasmussen said.
Rasmussen was one of the people who had to evacuate Tuesday night. She said a neighbor came by to tell her about the flood warning, and shortly after she received a reverse 911 call warning her to evacuate. She headed to her daughter’s in Fort Collins to spend the night.
“You always worry,” Rasmussen said. “Especially after a fire when there is the flash floods or the isolated rain up canyon that it can happen, but no, you never know when it’s going to happen.”
The Larimer County Sheriff's Office confirmed one woman was found dead in the water in the Black Hollow Road area due to the flooding Tuesday. Initially, two men were reported missing, but by Wednesday afternoon an additional female was also reported missing. Five homes were destroyed, according to the sheriff’s office.
“Where all of this occurred there were homes that were there, and they’re no longer there, completely gone,” said David Moore with the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office.
The calls first started coming in around 6 p.m Tuesday that the river was rising, according to Moore.
“Not long after that, we started receiving reports of some mudslides,” Moore said. “And not long after that, we started getting reports of some homes being washed away.”
Wednesday morning, the priority became getting search and rescue teams out to find the three missing people on foot and using dogs and drones. The search operations were suspended by 5 p.m., and crews will resume search efforts Thursday morning.
Damage assessment teams are also out assessing damage to structures, bridges and roadways. Poudre Valley REA reports 100 customers are without power in the area. Damage to the system has been isolated to two poles, but damage and large debris is impacting access to complete repairs.
A view of where the flash flood and mudslide occurred last night that sent a large amount of debris into the Poudre Canyon.— CPW NE Region (@CPW_NE) July 22, 2021
Thank you to @LarimerSheriff & @ColoradoDOT for their response in the canyon. Our thoughts are with those who are impacted by this. pic.twitter.com/h4hOLCYoTH
Crews were able to reopen Highway 14 at approximately 3:30 p.m. Wednesday after being closed since around 7 p.m. the day before.
At around 1. p.m. Wednesday, the Larimer Sheriff's Office announced the Poudre River was closed for all use by order of the sheriff effective immediately. The restriction is in place from the Fish Hatchery to the mouth of the canyon, and applies to all watercraft craft. Restrictions are being imposed in response to disaster relief and debris removal relating to the flooding and mudslides into the Poudre River near the Black Hollow Road bridge that occurred on Tuesday, a spokesperson said.
The U.S. Forest Service also announced closures for all Forest Service recreation areas in the Poudre Canyon through July 28.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife reported a significant loss of fish in the area, and they've observed dead fish from the canyon to Fort Collins. There is no estimate on how many fish were lost. CPW believes most other wildlife should have been able to escape the flooding, and they have located no animal carcasses.
The concern remains that more flooding and damage could occur, and Moore says residents should be prepared.
“It’s my understanding that some folks that live in the area, they looked outside, some sprinkles and they thought, ‘OK, it’s sprinkling,’ and next thing you know here comes this massive pile of debris, rocks, mud just coming down the hill with very little, if any warning at all,” Moore said.
And Rasmussen said she’s concerned, too. The Poudre River, which is in her backyard, is the blackest she’s seen since 2013 after the Hyde Park Fire — a stark contrast from Tuesday.
“You’re sitting here thinking you’re watching the beautiful river and the rocks, and everything is crystal clear and perfect.” Rasmussen said. “It looks like thick cocoa. It’s pretty bad.”