LA JUNTA, Colo. - (UPDATE: SATURDAY, 10 P.M.)
Authorities said the Arkansas River did not rise as high as expected Saturday but the water still was high enough to cause two levee breaks in the La Junta area of eastern Otero County.
Just before noon Saturday, the Sheriff's Office reported a river level of 12.54 feet, well above flood stage of 11 feet but below the 13 feet expected by authorities.
Two breaks in the river levee near North La Junta caused flooding along Fruit Road near Highway 194, but authorities thanked Bud Quick, a neighbor, for using heavy equipment to repair the breaks.
The Sheriff's Office called in additional deputies to help with the situation and said flooding was similar to what the area experienced in 2015.As of 8 p.m. Saturday, the river level had fallen to 11.97 feet.
According to a message posted on the Sheriff's Office Facebook page: "With the storm water release from the Pueblo Reservoir, Meredith, and continued drainage, the river will remain above flood level (11 feet) for several days. I do, however, feel we are on the downside of this event. I will continue to post updates."
(SATURDAY, 10 A.M.)
Authorities are confirming whether the flood stage in the Arkansas River at La Junta has leveled off, or if the latest measurement is skewed by broken gauges.
According to the Otero County Sheriff's Office, the river reading at 6 a.m. Saturday was 12.66 inches -- unchanged from Friday night -- apparently halting what had been a gradual increase since heavy rainfall in the region earlier this week.
However, on its Facebook page, the Sheriff's Office added: "It appears there may be damage to the gauges at Catlin Dam and Rocky Ford, as the numbers seem a bit off."
The unincorporated community of North La Junta, on the opposite side of the river from La Junta, appears to be at the greatest flooding risk because it is a lower-lying area.
The high river level caused some local flooding and the closure of several streets and road in that area: County Road 28 and 809, the intersection of Canal and West streets, County Road BB.75 off Highway 194 and Highway 194 between mile markers 7 and 8.
The Sheriff's Office said most standing water is on farmland or in pastures, and most of it is due to groundwater seepage.
Authorities said they presently are not considering evacuations.
Many residents said they weren't concerned about flooding because it generally happens every spring with the arrival of more rain.
But others said they worried about authorities diverting some river water into an adjacent irrigation canal.
"The last time that happened a few years ago, there was a break in the canal and we had a lot of flooding," said Jacob Newman, a local resident. "Diverting river water could put more stress on the canal. Hopefully, that won't happen."
Authorities said they will continue to monitor the river through the weekend.