Hot temperatures trigger rapid snowmelt, dangerously high Front Range rivers

Poudre River out of its banks in Greeley

Poudre River out of its banks in Greeley

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GREELEY, Colo. — Hot weather is causing snow melt in the high country, filling some rivers beyond capacity which is leading to flood warnings.

In Greeley, the warnings mean road closures–which some people are ignoring.

The only thing speeding on a closed 71st Avenue is rushing water from a swollen Cache La Poudre River.

It’s what Greeley’s Public Works Director had hoped.

“The swift moving water is the biggest concern and keeping people away from it and out of it,” says Joel Hemestath.

He doesn’t want another tragedy like one in Fort Collins–in which the same river swept two people to their deaths Memorial Day.

“It’s probably a foot or less here. It’s more the swiftness that’s the danger, than the depth, and that’s why it can be kind of misleading,” he says.

This is one of four road closures in Greeley.

But it’s a different story at a closure with the most people at 6th Ave. near downtown.

Driver after driver ignores the closure.

One man took a gamble because he didn’t want to take a detour.

“Because I didn’t want to go all the way around,” he says.

“I was contemplating how deep it was to see if I could make it through,” says truck driver Ronnie Wilcox.

He weighs the risks despite the dangers.

“In moving water you’re never supposed to go out in it,” he says.

But he says the detour will take away time he can’t spare.

“I’d end up having to go farther that way, turn around and come back. Probably take me another 30 to 45 minutes. And I’m already on an adjusted time schedule as it is,” says Wilcox.

So, he goes for it.

And so do some bicyclists.

It makes the city hope the river has crested–along with the accompanying dangers.

“I’d like to think the worse is over but with more snow on the mountains you never know,” says Hemestath.

He asks people to stay out of the river and respect the barricades.

The water crested at 9 feet overnight.

The flood warning expires Thursday morning.

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