FORT COLLINS - The American Red Cross will open a north Fort Collins shelter at 3 p.m. Friday to connect residents cut off from services by the fast-flowing Poudre River.
Tavelli Elementary School, 118 Miramont Drive, will offer assistance to those displaced by the flood or otherwise in need. North Fort Collins residents have been severed from the rest of the city, as bridges crossing the Poudre through the city have been closed due to safety concerns.
A south Fort Collins shelter is operating at Timberline Church, 2908 S. Timberline Road.
Historical high flows of the Poudre that led to the bridge closures are receding Friday afternoon, and are expected to fall out of flood range by Saturday morning.
According to the National Weather Service, the Poudre reached 14.56 feet - nearly seven times its average during the previous four days - at 8:15 a.m. Friday. At that peak, more than 420,000 gallons of water passed a stream gauge every second.
While flows have dropped since, they are expected to remain in the flood stage through noon, Saturday.
Flooding is still causing problems across the city, which warns that power outages are possible due to flooded utilities equipment. Residents should call (970) 221-6700 to report an outage. The city is currently taking all drinking water from Horsetooth Reservoir, which is 60 percent full and in no danger of failing, according to a release.
City officials says that the Poudre's flow through the city has decreased to less than 9,000 cubic feet per second - or about 67,000 gallons per second. The city hasn't used Poudre River water in its drinking water system since Sept. 6, and advises people not to play in or drink untreated flood water.
With the Poudre and Big Thompson rivers raging, Northern Colorado emergency responders sent a clear message Friday morning: just stay home. President Barack Obama has declared Northern Colorado a disaster area.
Interstate 25 is closed between the Colorado/Wyoming border and the north Denver metro area, and most Fort Collins bridges spanning the Poudre are closed. In Fort Collins, only the Harmony Road bridge is open.
Bridges are passable by foot or bike, but city workers are posted to stop traffic and discourage foot travel. At the closed College Avenue bridge, city worker Tony Lopez sent people back after relieving a co-worker posted at the bridge Thursday night.
"I'll be here all day," Lopez said. "Whatever it takes."
Shortly after 10 a.m., Poudre Fire Authority advised firefighters not to drive engines over city bridges stressed by the roiling waters.
Outside Fort Collins, Colorado Department of Transportation has advised that people avoid nonessential travel in Boulder, Larimer, Jefferson and Clear Creek counties.
Schools in Poudre and Thompson public school districts are closed Friday, with PSD's heavy slate of Friday athletics canceled. Most area private schools are closed, as are city and county offices in Fort Collins.
Poudre River levels rose through Fort Collins late Thursday, after a day that saw the week's steady heavy rains lead to flash-flooding that killed three across Colorado and severed many mountain communities from the populated Front Range.
Residents of Fort Collins' Andersonville, Alta Vista and Buckingham neighborhoods north of the Poudre were advised to evacuate by 3 a.m. Friday due to rising waters.
Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith said during a 10 a.m. media briefing that it's still unknown how many people are stranded in mountainous areas hit hard by Thursday's rains and flooding. He said a Type 2 incident management team is headed to the county to coordinate the disaster response - the same team that responded to the Hewlett Fire in 2012.
Smith said all dams along the Big Thompson are holding, but deputies believe they saw some Big Thompson Canyon homes destroyed. Reports of debris washing down the river were heard over emergency radio communications Friday morning.
Smith said two county bridges broke Thursday night, and the next few days will be spent rescuing stranded county residents and assessing damage. It's too early to tell how costly recovery from the flood will be, he said.
Continued showers are likely through Friday, with the threat expected to taper by Friday night. The National Weather Service predicts that a 60 percent chance of rain through the day will decrease to a 30 percent chance of scattered showers at night.
Less rain is expected Saturday, with showers and a thunderstorm likely on Saturday, before the weather is expected to clear as temperatures rise toward 80 degrees on Monday and Tuesday.
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