By Keith Coffman
DENVER (Reuters) – One man was killed and three people were missing in Colorado after floodwaters and a mudslide triggered by torrential rains roared down mountainsides stripped of vegetation by a wildfire, authorities said on Saturday.
The body of an unidentified man was found early Saturday on the side of a highway that leads up to the 14,000-foot (4,300-metre) Pikes Peak, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.
“The body was not inside a vehicle and much of the body was buried beneath significant amounts of debris,” the sheriff’s office said.
The cause of death is under investigation.
Nearly 1.5 inches of rain fell in 30 minutes Friday night in an area devastated by a wildfire last year, causing a creek to overflow its banks and cascade across a state highway and into the town of Manitou Springs, about 6.5 miles west of Colorado Springs.
Manitou Springs Police Chief Joe Ribeiro told a news conference on Saturday that three people are unaccounted for and an unknown number of homes and businesses were destroyed by the flood and mud flow.
Footage aired by local television showed a wall of water carrying vehicles down the narrow canyon roadway and into the town, which sits at the foot of Pikes Peak.
Leslie Lewis, executive director of the Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce, said she was in her office when flood warning sirens went off Friday evening.
She watched as Fountain Creek jumped its banks and when the waters receded, the downtown area was strewn with tree branches, other debris and several inches of mud.
“Now I know why they call it a flash flood – it was a very, very quick event,” she said by phone.
The National Weather Service issued another flash flood watch for the area on Saturday, as heavy rains are forecast to hover over the region.
(Reporting by Keith Coffman; Editing by Scott Malone and Eric Beech)
Watch raw footage of the flooding, posted by CNN on Saturday, below.