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Larimer County lifts river restrictions below Rustic, evacuation orders in Poudre Canyon

Search continues for three missing people after flash flood
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Posted at 6:00 PM, Jul 22, 2021

DENVER – The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office lifted river restrictions below Rustic and all evacuation orders in Poudre Canyon Thursday afternoon as the search operations for three people missing after Tuesday’s flash flooding continued.

The three adults remain missing as of 5 p.m. Thursday. Crews were able to recover an unoccupied vehicle from the river on Thursday, the sheriff’s office said.

The search for the three missing people will continue Friday morning with “reduced resources,” according to the sheriff’s office. There were 45 personnel working on the search operations and cleanup on Thursday.

"The most difficult piece has been the terrain. There is no easy path to follow. This is all heavy forest with water right next to it," said Blake McCarty with the Larimer County Search and Rescue Team. "We will keep looking. We won’t give up."

Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith said Thursday the woman who died and the three people missing were all “associated with one residence along Black Hollow Drive” and said he was working with the family before releasing their names.

Denver7 reached out to a person close to the family of the missing people but they are not yet ready to tell their story.

Neighbors and law enforcement officials said the mudslide and flash flooding happened very quickly along Black Hollow Drive Tuesday night.

“It was coming down there faster than I could run,” said Jerry Wilkerson. “The front door got pushed in and there was a lot of logs in front of it and about a foot of water and sludge.”

Though restrictions have been lifted on the river below Rustic, use will remain restricted above the town.

“As restrictions are lifted, we encourage those entering the canyon to be mindful of the weather and river status during their visit. The forecast calls for more thunderstorm activity and conditions can change very rapidly,” the sheriff’s office said in a news release. “Let someone know where you’re going. If you see water rising, climb to the highest ground you can reach.”

On Wednesday, the chair of the Larimer County Board of Commissioners made a local disaster emergency declaration, which the board of commissioners will vote on next Tuesday. The declaration says the county expects the flash flooding and mudslides to be a recurring situation from the Cameron Peak burn scar.

The U.S. Forest Service on Wednesday announced closures for all Forest Service recreation areas in the Poudre Canyon through July 28.

Flash flooding has been a persistent issue across Colorado for the past several weeks, especially on its burn scars from last year’s massive fires. Officials are warning the conditions could persist through this weekend and into next week because of the monsoon weather pattern.