At least one man is dead after a mudslide closed a highway and flash flooding stranded vehicles in high, fast-moving water Friday night as rain fell west of Colorado Springs in an area burned by the Waldo Canyon wildfire last year.
The mudslide closed U.S. 24 between Cascade and Manitou Springs, located west of Colorado Springs. The highway has been partially reopened. Flooding also closed part of U.S. 50.
The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office confirms the body of an adult male was found in flash flooding debris along Highway 24 Friday.
The sheriff’s office said the body was recovered under significant amounts of debris in the westbound lanes of Highway 24. It was not inside a vehicle and without any form of identification.
At least three others were injured as violent floodwaters swept through much of the town, lifting homes from their foundations, littering the streets with debris and pushing vehicles off the highway.
“It’s just absolute chaos,” said Elissa Hokenstad, assistant manager of the Manitou Springs Arcade. “We always have to keep it in the back of our minds, but I didn’t think it would happen tonight,” said Hokenstad, who spent the evening with employees mopping mud from the game room floors and pumping water from flooded basements.
Michael Cercone said that he saw a home get swept away in the flood waters. “I never expected like a home to wash down the street, not at all,” Cercone said.
It was the fourth flash food to strike the area this year.
The hotel’s staff at The Cliff House at Pikes Peak regularly put sandbags around the lower deck and back doors as a precaution when the forecast calls for rain. They did it again Friday, but it didn’t help. “The sandbags we put up were washed out almost immediately,” Cliff House front-office manager Roland Sardaczuk told the Associated Press. “The cars parked on Park Avenue — the water just threw them around like they were toys.”
The National Weather Service says about 1.3 inches of rain fell in about a half hour in the area burned by the Waldo Canyon Fire, which destroyed 347 homes, killed two people, and burned more than 18,000 acres last year. Areas burned by wildfires are particularly vulnerable to flash floods because the burned soils don’t absorb as much water.
The Manitou Springs Fire Department confirms several people are missing following flash floods in the area. Crews were going home to home looking for possible victims. Police blocked roads entering Manitou Springs.
Heavy rain also fell on the already rain-soaked ground in the Denver metro area. Street flooding in parts of Douglas County slowed rush hour traffic.
A line of storms moved slowly east over Denver, dumping rain and hail. Heavy rain Thursday flooded streets and low lying areas in Aurora and southeast Denver.
Red Cross set up a shelter at the First Congregational Church located at 103 Pawnee Dr in Manitou Springs. At least 15 people were at the shelter Friday night.
Investigators from the Sheriff’s Office were on the scene throughout the recovery effort and the body has since been taken from the scene by the El Paso County Coroner’s Office. The coroner’s office will determine the cause of the man’s death, but it is believed he was killed in the flash flood. “There is no suspicion of foul play,” said Lt. Jeff Kramer, spokesman for the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office. Kramer said.
Manitou Springs Police Chief Joe Ribeiro said at a Saturday morning news conference that three people were missing: 24 year old Juston Travis, a man neighbors knew only as Steve, and a woman seen clinging to a tree.
Although warmer and drier temperatures are expected for the weekend storms are still possible each day.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)