Storm causes extensive damage to Lake Colorado and strands dozens of people

A catastrophic storm caused major damage to a popular Colorado lake over Memorial Day Weekend.

Screenshot from Denver Water video on Lake Dillon

A fierce storm lashed a popular Colorado lake over Memorial Day weekend, stranding dozens of boaters, rescuers said.

While rescuers were helping a kayaker whose boat capsized in the icy waters of Dillon Reservoir, they received another call about a pontoon boat with 13 people on board being blown onto “the rocky bank” of the lake’s Snake River Arm, according to reports the Summit County Sheriff’s Office.

That’s why the rescuers split up. A crew from the Dillon Marina helped the “hypothermic kayaker” out of the water and took him to a local hospital, officials said.

Click to resize

The sheriff’s ranger helped the pontoon boat, which had become stranded on rocks below the Summerwood neighborhood, officials said. All 13 people on board were safe.

That’s when the sheriff’s ranger spotted an empty canoe in the water, officials said.

The ranger found a man and a woman in the water about a quarter-mile away from where the boat capsized 30 minutes earlier in Heaton Bay, officials said. They had been in the water since then and had suffered from hypothermia.

Rescuers treated them on the lifeboat, officials said. Then they were taken to the Frisco Marina to take hot showers and change clothes.

Life jackets were “critical” to everyone’s survival in the catastrophic storm — during the sheriff’s office’s first weekend at the lake this year, officials said.

Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons reminded the public of the dangers of icy water and rapidly changing conditions on lakes like the reservoir. Life jackets are required on all boats and other watercraft in Colorado, including hand-powered ones such as paddleboards.

Officials also recommend wearing a leash when paddleboarding on flat water.

“High mountain lakes, like Dillon Reservoir, are extremely dangerous,” he said. “Even exceptionally strong swimmers can find their muscles seizing up when they fall into 43 degree water. Without a (personal flotation device) drowning is likely; we see it every year.”

Profile image of Brooke Baitinger

Brooke (she/them) is a McClatchy Real-Time reporter covering LGBTQ+ entertainment news and national parks in the West. They studied journalism at the University of Florida and previously reported on LGBTQ+ news for the South Florida Sun Sentinel. When they’re not writing stories, they enjoy hanging out with their cats, riding horses, or spending time outdoors.

Back To Top