Larimer County Board of Commissioners chair makes disaster emergency declaration for burn scar flooding

Board of commissioners will vote on declaration next Tuesday
Posted at 11:44 AM, Jul 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-22 13:46:41-04

DENVER – The Larimer County Board of Commissioners will consider a local disaster emergency declaration at a meeting next week in the wake of this week’s mudslides and flash flooding in the Cameron Peak burn scar.

The board’s chair, John Kefalas, made the declaration Wednesday, which the full board of commissioners will vote on next Tuesday. The board’s disaster declaration says the county expects the flash flooding and mudslides “to be a recurring situation for the Cameron Peak Burn Scar due to loss of vegetation and increased hydrological response in the watershed.”

Once the board of commissioners signs off on the declaration, the county will be able to activate its Emergency Operations Plan, utilize state and federal resources, and allow for financial aid to come in as needed.

The county is in the process of assessing the damage left in the wake of Tuesday evening’s mudslides, which left one woman dead and three other adults from the same home missing, and destroyed at least five structures on Black Hollow Road up Poudre Canyon.

“We are working with the family and will release the names of the missing and the recovered as soon as possible,” Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith said in a Facebook post Thursday morning.

Crews with Poudre Valley REA were looking at whether it was possible to construct a temporary electricity line along Highway 14 to bypass the Black Hollow Road area and get power back to the people above, the company said Thursday morning. About 100 customers were without power as of Wednesday.

“For our members in the Black Hollow Rd. area, power will unfortunately remain off until debris is cleared and access across the bridge is deemed safe for our trucks,” Poudre Valley REA tweeted.

Larimer County said search operations for the three missing people were back underway Thursday morning and that work crews would be clearing debris and repairing infrastructure in the area. Highway 14 is open to traffic, but the river and most nearby campgrounds remain closed after an order issued Wednesday.

“Thankfully, yesterday’s round of storms (which came with flash flood warnings) did not deliver any more surprises or damage and only moderately impacted crews working the search and recovery missions,” Sheriff Smith said. “We will re-evaluate the river closure order today to determine if it needs to be continued.”

Jason Clay, a spokesperson for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said Wednesday evening there was “a significant loss of fish” because of the flood from the canyon down to Fort Collins and that it was “too early to put a number on dead fish but can say it’s significant.”

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

The Colorado Department of Transportation and National Weather Service have warned that a monsoon pattern could cause flash flooding conditions through the next week, though no flash flood watch was in effect for the Cameron Peak burn scar area on Thursday as of 11:30 a.m. A small stream flood advisory is in effect for the area until 1:15 p.m. Thursday, however.