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Larimer County residents assess and clean up after deadly flash flood

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Posted at 10:34 AM, Jul 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-17 12:34:08-04

LARIMER COUNTY, Colo. — Saturday afternoon, the sounds of Miller Fork Creek in Larimer County were a gentle babble, a far cry from its sound Friday.

“At that time, it sounded like a roaring—I don’t know what, a freight train,” said Linda Cunningham.

Cunningham and her husband Jim had a front row seat to the flash flood. They’re staying at their friend’s place right on Miller Fork Creek, while Jim recovers from hip surgery. It’s been a very peaceful place to heal, they said, apart from about a half-hour Friday evening.

“I looked out, and it’s a black river, and it’s all kinds of huge waves with logs and boulders and everything in it,” recalled Linda Cunningham. “I mean, I was afraid it could take out the whole deck, and we’re gone, you know? But, we’ve made it through.”

The black, ashy color of the water Friday was just one way the Cameron Peak Fire of 2020 made its mark on the flash flood. The speed and intensity of the flood can be blamed on the fire, too.

Forest lands closed, roads damaged after deadly flooding in Larimer County

“When we have a wildfire, the soil changes, and it’s no longer able to absorb the water like normal soil would for a little while after the fire,” said Lori Hodges, Director of Emergency Management for Larimer County. “It has to get some regrowth behind it. So, when water falls on it, it just flows right off.”

According to the Larimer County Sheriff's Office, a woman and a girl were killed in the flooding in the Buckhorn area. The mother and daughter, whose identities have not been released, were camping in a travel trailer along the creek when flood waters swept the trailer away. No other injuries were reported.

Crews will be working on road repairs for some time. As of Saturday, County Road 44H has been closed off to all traffic except emergency vehicles. The National Forest Service has also closed a portion of Roosevelt National Forest to evaluate the safety of the Cameron Peak Fire burn area.

Residents have plenty of cleaning up to do, too. Denver7 spoke to Michael Markovich on his property off Miller Fork Creek as he surveyed the damage to his fence, bench, and pond. This will be the third time he will clean out his pond after flooding on his property, he said.

“It still brings up shock,” Markovich said. “You know, even a couple of rain drops anymore, your anxiety rises… it’s a lovely place when Mother Nature doesn’t cause havoc like this.”

Larimer County officials said an estimate on the cost of damages could come Sunday. They do not expect it to reach the threshold for federal aid to become available.