‘We can’t let our guards down’: Flood risk persists after flash flood kills two people in Larimer County

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
June 2021 in the Cameron Peak Fire burn scar near Rustic, Colorado. The 2020 fire burned over 208,663 acres in Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Rocky Mountain National Park, making it the largest in state recorded history.

Two people have died and one home was destroyed following flash flooding in Larimer County Friday.

Deputies with the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office responded to reports of a camping trailer that had been washed away in the Buckhorn Road area west of Fort Collins, said David Moore, a spokesman with the department. A woman and a girl in the trailer did not survive.

Multiple emergency crews with Larimer County reported moderate flooding in the Glen Haven area and significant flooding in the Crystal Mountain area. Buckhorn Road was washed out near mile marker 25 on County Road 27. Private bridges and culverts were also washed out.

One home, a cabin, located in the 700 block of Granite Road was destroyed. The occupants were reported safe. No other deaths, injuries or missing people were reported from the floods.

The National Weather Service in Boulder said Friday’s flash floods were caused by a strong thunderstorm that produced 1 to 2 inches of rain within a short period of time. Meteorologist David Barjenbruch said a flash flood threat remains in the area Saturday.

“That moisture decreases a little bit, but we can’t let our guards down,” Barjenbruch said. “There is still some threat of flash flooding in the burn area today, just not as great as yesterday.”

Buckhorn Road is closed with no estimated time for reopening. The Larimer County Office of Emergency Management assessed the damage Saturday.

The area has been vulnerable to flash flooding due to wildfires, most recently the Cameron Peak and East Troublesome fires because there is no vegetation to absorb water. Barjenbruch describes the soil as “hydrophobic.” 

“They won’t absorb any rainfall or a very limited amount of rainfall. And then, that water is basically like it’s falling on a piece of glass and it’s just shooting off the mountain side,” Barjenbruch said. 

The National Weather Service advises those living in burn scars, especially in mountainous regions, to have multiple communication methods to receive alerts and keep contact in emergency situations. The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office said people located in burn scars and who are concerned about their safety during a flash flood should seek higher ground.