LARIMER COUNTY, Colo. — The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed one woman has died and two more adults are missing after dangerous flooding in the Poudre Canyon area Tuesday.
The sheriff’s office said Wednesday morning that the person who died in the flooding was a woman and confirmed the two missing people were adults. Authorities were not able to recover the deceased woman’s body Tuesday, and a Larimer County dive crew will be working to recover her body and a vehicle from the river on Wednesday.
Larimer County Damage Assessment Teams will start surveying the damage Wednesday as search operations continue for the missing people.
The sheriff’s office confirmed Tuesday night that five homes have been damaged or destroyed.
Colorado State Patrol troopers and Larimer County deputies were going door-to-door to evacuate people earlier in the evening.
The flooding started in Poudre Canyon around 6 p.m. above Rustic. A mudslide happened near Black Hollow Road that sent debris down the canyon, destroying at least five structures and damaging the road, the sheriff’s office said Wednesday.
A mandatory evacuation was in place for several hours in the area of Highway 14 from Rustic to Ted’s Place at Highway 287. The sheriff’s office lifted the mandatory evacuation at approximately 10:30 p.m. Residents were allowed to return to their homes in the area.
Highway 14 is expected to reopen Wednesday evening.
Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith said early Wednesday morning that he had visited the area. A resident from Black Hollow Road had described the rain as “fairly typical” and added the “washing of soil and trees came as a complete surprise,” Smith said.
Smith said several structures along Black Hollow Road appear to have been damaged or destroyed.
“I personally witnessed significant debris and damage in the area, caused by downed trees, damaged and destroyed homes and mudflow in the area,” he said.
Residents Mary Nagler and Sean Dougherty live in Poudre Canyon and were among the many people evacuated.
Nagler said Dougherty, her husband, who was in Cheyenne, called her around 7 p.m. saying they’d likely be evacuated due to the flash flood warnings. She said she started to gather their belongings.
“One of our neighbors is a firefighter and he came over and was knocking on doors before I got the call (to evacuate). He said, ‘I just sent my wife and kids down. You better go,'” she said.
About half an hour later, she received an alert to evacuate the area immediately.
“I just got in the car and came down the canyon about as fast as I ever have,” she said.
Dougherty said Larimer County officials were fast to alert the community about the danger.
He said he was listening to a scanner and heard there was a debris wall moving 18 mph in the area.
“There were a lot of cabins up in the burn scar that were taken out by this and they reported one of them around milemarker 99. A cabin was blocking about 30% of the river,” he said.
Nagler said they live across the river and use a narrow, old bridge to get across the water. She said they were concerned the debris could have damaged or destroyed the bridge.
They said they fled with a change of clothes, computers, phones, chargers, a few documents and their cars.
An evacuation site was set up by the Red Cross is at Cache La Poudre Middle School at 3515 W. County Road 54G.
The sheriff’s office said there is concern for the weather pattern expected Wednesday and asks residents to remain alert to the weather conditions in the event additional evacuations may be necessary.
Around 7:15 p.m., the Colorado Department of Transportation closed both directions of Highway 14 between Bockman Road and Pingree Road through Poudre Canyon and Cameron Pass due to excessive flooding. A flash flood watch is in effect.
At approximately 9:30 p.m., officials said the highway will remain closed from Ted’s Place west to the Jackson County line until at least Wednesday due to excessive flooding. There is heavy debris along the highway, and debris flow remains high. For residents returning to their homes in the area, police will have to make contact with each vehicle coming through.
Forest Service campgrounds along Highway 14 will be closed Wednesday.
The sheriff’s office also issued an emergency message for flooding occurring in the area of Joe Wright Reservoir east to the intersection of County Road 69 and Rustic.
Drivers should not attempt to drive through flooded roadways, and if your vehicle stalls, leave it immediately.
There are reports of mudslides in the area and multiple miles of line down, according to Poudre Valley REA. As of Wednesday morning, there were about 101 customers without power.
“For those members, we are expecting extended outages that could last multiple days,” Poudre Valley REA.
Anyone who wishes to received updates can text LCEVAC to 888777 to receive evacuation information and FLOOD2021 to 888777 to received information on flooding in the county.
A Joint Information Center has been opened to support the flood incident in the Poudre Canyon. The information line is (970) 980-2500. The line is closing for the night at 11:30 p.m. and will have live operators once again Wednesday morning.
Editor’s Note: This story has been corrected to show that the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office said the flooding started above Rustic around 6 p.m., not 4:45 p.m. as the sheriff’s office previously stated.