DENVER—A woman was found dead and three other people were missing after rain triggered flooding and mudslides in an area of northern Colorado burned by a large wildfire last year, authorities said Wednesday.
The woman’s body was found near the small community of Rustic, about 100 miles northwest of Denver, after a mudslide sent a large amount of debris into a scenic, winding canyon Tuesday evening, the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office said.
At least five houses were destroyed, and a private bridge was damaged in the flooding, sheriff’s Capt. Joe Shellhammer told the Coloradoan newspaper in Fort Collins.
“Homes that were there are no longer there,” said David Moore, Public Information Officer for the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office.
Crews recovered the woman’s body from the Cache la Poudre River that runs through Poudre Canyon west of Fort Collins, while crews on foot searched for two missing men and another woman with help from drones, the sheriff’s office said.
After rain on Tuesday, the flooding occurred along a 30–mile stretch of Highway 14, a popular place for camping, fishing and rafting during the summer.
The flooding triggered about six mudslides, temporarily closing the road, a state Department of Transportation spokesperson told the Coloradoan. The debris left along the river included propane tanks, stove pipes, lawn chairs, dishes and an American flag, the newspaper reported.
Jerry Wilkerson, who owns a summer cabin in the area, says he had a close call with the mudslide.
“It sounded like a freight train or a tornado. Just a very loud, rumbling sound. We could see in the trees up there, this big 8– to 10–foot tall mass rolling towards the river, a lot of sludge, a lot of huge boulders, logs.”
“If we’d been about a minute earlier and if I’d driven across the bridge to our cabin, that’s probably when that mass would have hit. And I would have probably, it would have pushed us in the river,” he added.
The area burned last year in the 326–square–mile Cameron Peak Fire, which likely contributed to the flooding and mudslides, sheriff’s spokesman Jered Kramer said.
Fires torch vegetation that usually helps absorb rain, making those areas more vulnerable to flooding, especially in steep sections. The soil in burned areas can also repel rain.
Rain and flooding was possible again Wednesday in the area, which is near where another wildfire, the East Troublesome Fire, chewed through land last year.