KUSA - City officials say Sunday's first light revealed extensive flooding in the city's signature Riverside Park but the rest of the city and most private property appeared to be spared.
State Highway 52, the main thoroughfare crossing the South Platte River from Fort Morgan to the north, appeared intact but remained closed and the timing of its reopening is uncertain.
The river had overrun the bridge deck overnight, and although the floodwaters had receded somewhat, the bridge structure must be inspected before it can be cleared to take traffic again. The bridge deck is now exposed but the girders underneath the bridge must also be uncovered before the proper inspections can be performed, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.
As of early Sunday morning the river level was right at the level of the bridge deck, so the water would have to go down another several feet to inspect the underlying structure.
The park flooding was being fed by a 100-foot wide breach in the levee that was allowing the river to rush down into the park, covering several softball fields and acres of grassy areas and nature trails. Floodwaters prevented city officials from further assessing damage to trails and the riverbank further into the interior of the park.
The 300-acre park lies along the South Platte north of Interstate 76, while most of the city is south of the freeway. The city was largely spared from flooding, due at least in part to the fact that predicted overnight rains were light and no rain fell for most of the early morning hours.
Rain was again falling Sunday morning, however, and the latest available reports suggested that the crest of the river surge was not expected until at least mid-afternoon Sunday. So officials cannot say with certainty yet that the worst is over.
Riverside Park will remain closed until further notice, and residents are being warned to avoid going near the park, the river or any floodwater-inundated areas. Contamination of the river water from upstream pipeline breaks and other factors make the water extremely unsafe.
Fort Morgan's utilities also survived the night intact. The water treatment plant is operating normally and the city's water supply is clean and safe. Electric power that had to be shut off to a few residences north of the river was being restored Sunday morning, and no other outages were reported.
Numerous residents were approaching the area of the park on foot Sunday morning, and police were keeping them a safe distance away. People who disregard barricades and orders to leave could receive tickets for trespassing, police said.
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