RUSTIC, Colo. (AP) – 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 (161 kilometers) 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.
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 (48-kilometer) 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.
The area burned last year in the 326-square-mile (844-square-kilometer) 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.
Mudslides in areas scorched by wildfires affected several other Colorado roadways, including Interstate 70 in the Glenwood Canyon area in western Colorado, which has repeatedly been closed by debris since last year’s 640-square-mile (1,657-square-kilometer) Grizzly Creek wildfire.
Some 46 miles (74 kilometers) of the state’s main east-west highway were closed because of mudslides overnight, and officials were watching for the possibility of more rain there, too.