PUEBLO, Colo. (CBS4) – Pueblo officials restricted access to the Arkansas River Tuesday, one day after a Texas man lost his life farther upstream. Sameer Prasla, 42, of Texas, died when his raft flipped over around 4 p.m. Monday.
Prasla was wearing a life jacket and helmet while rafting with a group from the Boy Scouts of America west of Canon City, authorities told Colorado Springs CBS affiliate KKTV. First responders were unable to revive him at the scene.
The river has now been restricted to whitewater canoes and kayaks from Lake Pueblo’s dam east to the Pueblo-Otero County Line by Colorado Parks & Wildlife, the Pueblo Police Department, and the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office. Swimmers, rafters and innertubers — no matter how well equipped — will be ticketed if they are discovered in the water.
“Right now, the river is flowing high and fast creating a very hazardous situation,” said Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk M. Taylor. “Due to the dangerous condition of the river, we feel that for the safety of the public, we request people to stay out of the water until conditions improve.”
More water is running through the river after the wet winter led to an increased snowmelt. According to the National Weather Service, the Arkansas River exceeded flood stage early Tuesday afternoon in the town of Avondale just downstream of Pueblo. Minor flooding is occurring.
Above Lake Pueblo, more snowmelt from the Rocky Mountains is already on its way downhill. The NWS predicts the Arkansas will reach flood stage in Canon City shortly after midnight Friday, and stay above it for at least two days.
Even farther upstream, rafting companies are voluntarily avoiding three sections of the Arkansas between Granite and Buena Vista, and in the Royal Gorge, following high water warnings.
Agencies also warned the public to stay away from the river’s banks. The abnormally high volume of water can structurally weaken the river’s edges and cause them to unexpectedly crumble away under the feet of onlookers.
A 29-year-old man from Russia died in a rafting accident last Thursday on the Eagle River.
Adding to the concern is a good chance for rain returning to the area starting Thursday and continuing through Father’s Day weekend, according to CBS4 meteorologist Ashton Altieri. Numerous thunderstorms are expected to produce periods of locally heavy rainfall which could quickly raise water levels even higher. Lightning, gusty winds, and small hail is also possible.