MANITOU SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Authorities have recovered a man’s body from debris left by a fast-moving mudslide that swept through a historic town near Colorado Springs, Colo., and crews continued their search Saturday for three people reported missing after the flood.
Lt. Jeff Kramer with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office said 53-year-old John Collins of Teller County was found Friday “buried beneath significant amounts of debris” on U.S. Highway 24 in Manitou Springs. It was unclear if Collins left his nearby vehicle on his own or if the floodwaters forced him from it.
The mudslide closed the highway and flash flooding stranded vehicles in high water Friday night as about 1.3 inches of rain fell in an area burned by the Waldo Canyon Fire last year. Areas burned by wildfires are vulnerable to flash floods because the scorched soil absorbs less water.
Manitou Springs Police Chief Joe Ribeiro said Saturday that crews were looking for three people who were reported missing: 24-year-old Juston Travis, a man identified by neighbors only as Steve and a petite, blond female who was seen in a tree near the floodwaters.
“She was seen near the creek at one moment hanging in a tree and then not seen the next,” Ribeiro said.
Friday’s torrential rains swept mud, boulders and other debris from the burn scar down U.S. 24, washing away vehicles and damaging several homes and businesses in the area.
“Some folks have lost their homes. There’s been some total destruction on a few homes and some significant damage to others,” said Ribeiro, who did not have an accurate assessment of the damage.
The Colorado Springs Gazette reported Friday’s flash flood was the third to hit Manitou Springs this year and the fourth in the area since the Waldo Canyon Fire, which destroyed 347 homes, killed two people and burned more than 28 square miles.
“We didn’t have a lot of warning last night. This really came upon us quickly,” Manitou Springs Mayor Mark Snyder said. “And yet I know that businesses, restaurants evacuated their people, got them to safety and that’s always the first order of business.”
More rain was forecast for the area Saturday afternoon and evening.