KUSA - Fort Morgan Police have begun evacuations of areas in the northeast corner of Fort Morgan as rising flood waters from the South Platte River approach.
Just before 8 p.m. Saturday evening police said two feet of water was running through Riverside Park north of Fort Morgan. Police also said water was running over the Rainbow Bridge and Highway 52.
The pond near the Silver Spur Campground just outside the park on the far east end is taking on water, and police expect water to reach the nearby Comfort Inn and Rodeway Inn by 9 p.m.
Evacuations were ordered for the Silver Spur Campground, the Comfort Inn, the Rodeway Inn, Maverick's Restaurant and the Conoco Outpost. These locations are north of Interstate 76 at Barlow Road.
Police are also notifying locations south of I-76 at Barlow Road to be prepared to react quickly if an evacuation order comes. These include the Walmart store and the service stations near Exit 82 from I-76.
As of Saturday, Country Road 12 and Highway 144 at the Narrows bridge in Fort Morgan is now closed. There is flowing water over Highway 144.
Officials say the city's drinking water supply is not compromised. The water treatment plant near Wiggins is operating normally and the water reservoir and storage tank are full, so no water-supply problems are foreseen at this time.
All other city utilities are also sound and intact, and city crews are closely monitoring the condition of all city systems.
Officials are implementing emergency plans in the event the river overflows its banks. The city's Riverside Park will be evacuated and closed, primarily as a precautionary measure and a way to alleviate additional traffic along Highway 52 north of the city. Large numbers of people have been going to the park and the Rainbow Bridge to view the rising river, and this is creating congestion as other through traffic is diverted from closed highways throughout northern Colorado.
The Colorado Department of Transportation was making preparations late Saturday morning to close Highway 144 at The Narrows, northwest of Fort Morgan, which will likely cause more traffic on Highway 52. The town of Orchard was reportedly under an evacuation order Saturday morning, and the floodwaters continue to move to the east.
Residents should be aware of the possibility that Highway 52 could also be closed if the level of the river warrants that action. That decision will be made by CDOT, but city officials are preparing to close the city golf course north of the river in case of a Highway 52 closure, to ensure that residents are not stranded on the wrong side of the river.
City officials do not believe that river flooding will affect the major portion of the City of Fort Morgan, but businesses and residents in low-lying areas along the river on the north side of the city are being advised to prepare for evacuation if that becomes necessary.
The city's entire water supply system, including the pipeline that brings water from Carter Lake to the city, is being closely monitored. The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which operates that pipeline, is closely watching the full length of the line for any problems caused by floodwaters, and no issues have been found.
City residents are also advised that if Fort Morgan receives significant rain during the period when the river levels are extremely high, the areas of the city that historically flood during major rain events can be expected to flood in this instance. Because the river level is so high, it will be difficult for rain runoff to discharge into the river. Showers and thunderstorms are forecast through the weekend.
Officials emphasized that if flooding occurs inside the city away from the river, this will be the result of filled storm drain lines that are failing to carry away runoff water from the rain, and it will not be water backing up from the river into the city through the storm lines.
Water in the river, however, should be considered dangerous on several levels, and residents are strongly cautioned to stay away from the river and the water. In addition to the extremely high and fast-moving river currents, several sewer line breaks and other events to the west have contaminated the flood waters, and they should be carefully avoided.
City Streets Department crews are staging now for possible street closures as they become necessary. In addition to Riverside Park, other low-lying areas on the city's north side could see closures due to flooding. Areas such as the largely vacant Riverside Commons subdivision and some businesses and campgrounds near Exit 82 from Interstate 76 are among the areas of concern.
City officials are also working with the Morgan County Office of Emergency Management and other agencies to prepare emergency shelters in the event they are needed.
For example, if Highway 52 is closed the city could see an influx of travelers from Interstate 76 who are unable to reach their intended destinations.
The city is also communicating with other municipalities as well as businesses and other entities like the Northeast Colorado Health Department regarding its emergency planning effort. Fort Morgan is prepared to offer whatever assistance it can to other communities or customers if the need should arise.
Further updates will be provided throughout the day and the weekend as conditions change.
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