Residents are testing more than fate if they decide to take a dip in the Arkansas River as it nears its flood level threshold of 11 feet. They are also testing Otero County Sheriff Shawn Mobley's patience.
Mobley said Monday at the Board of County Commissioners meeting that charges are possible for anyone caught swimming in the river, especially if a rescue mission becomes necessary.
"People need to stay out of the water," Mobley said. "I'm not going to be kind about it if I end up having to have a rescue operation on that one."
The sheriff said he'd also bill anyone for their rescue, should it come to that.
He also cautioned against the use of vehicles in the river bottom, if after the water level recedes.
"There are times where people think they can maybe take a four-wheel-drive vehicle across the river," Mobley said. "I don't ever advise that. Even when the water is low, I don't think that is all that wise around here."
The Otero County Sheriff's Office and Emergency Manager Danny Chavez are monitoring the Arkansas River, along with Pueblo Reservoir, Chavez told the La Junta Tribune-Democrat Tuesday morning.
The Arkansas River is expected to peak at its flood threshold of 11 feet around noon today, according to National Weather Service reports, Chavez said.
At approximately 12:30 p.m. on Monday, Pueblo Reservoir reduced the amount of water they were releasing into the Arkansas River by about 1,000 cfs, Mobley reported at the BOCC meeting.
At previous BOCC meetings, Land Use Administrator Lex Nichols and Chavez stated they are in talks with Pueblo Reservoir, the Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Water Reclamation and local canal companies to coordinate the amount of water sent down the Arkansas River, to prevent or mitigate flooding in the North La Junta area.
Mobley said areas of U.S. 194 up to the Otero-Bent County line are experiencing minor agricultural flooding, including the intersection of U.S. 194 and U.S. 50 outside Las Animas.