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Friday, September 13, 2013

National Guard 1,000's Evacuated Colorado Flood

Colorado Flood: Thousands Evacuated, 

Several Unaccounted For; 

National Guard Moves In


  • Published on Sep 12, 2013

    Torrential rain drenched parts of Colorado, washing away homes, swamping roads, and causing at least three deaths as officials worked on Thursday to help stranded residents in what they described as a still-developing disaster.

    The National Weather Service warned of a "life-threatening situation" in an emergency message issued just after midnight local time for several areas around Boulder. About 6.8 inches of rain fell in a 24-hour period over the city, according to the National Weather Service, with the rain expected to continue through Sunday.

    The bad weather has made it impossible to get search and rescue helicopters into the air, officials said at a press conference on Thursday afternoon.

    "It's insane right now, I've lived in Colorado my whole life and this is nothing that I've ever seen before," said Andra Coberly spokesperson for a YMCA in Boulder that had been turned into an evacuation center. "Streets were turned into rivers and streams were turned into lakes."

    The first death was reported near Jamestown, according to officials, and was thought to be because of a building collapse. Another person was found dead on Linden Drive in Boulder County, officials said. The Colorado Springs Fire Department reported a third death on Thursday morning after a body was recovered near Interstate 25.

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  • Thousands flee raging Colo. floods

    Thousands of residents evacuate their homes after floodwaters became a relentless rush of water, turning whole towns into swamps and killing at least four, with one man saying the floods will 'bring us to our knees.'

  • LYONS, Colo. By truck and helicopter, thousands of people stranded by floodwaters came down from the Colorado Rockies on Friday, two days after seemingly endless rain turned normally scenic rivers and creeks into coffee-colored rapids that wrecked scores of roads and wiped out neighborhoods.
    Authorities aimed to evacuate 2,500 people from the isolated mountain community of Lyons by the end of the day, either by National Guard convoys or airlifts.
    One of them, Mary Hemme, recalled hearing sirens going off in the middle of the night and her husband saying they needed to leave. They stepped outside their trailer and into rushing water that nearly reached their knees.
    She got in her car and tried to drive away.
    "But I only got so far, because the river was rushing at me, so I threw it in reverse as fast as I could," Hemme said. "I was so afraid that I was going to die, that water came so fast."
    Others were less fortunate. The body of a woman who had been swept away was found Friday near Boulder, raising the death toll to four.
    Boulder, Colorado (CNN) – An entire community cut off, firefighters huddled on the side of a mountain after water swept their truck away, and — with rescue helicopters grounded — no way to reach them.
    This is the scene facing authorities Thursday in Boulder County, Colorado, in the wake of what Sheriff Joe Pelle called a “devastating storm” that dumped more than half a foot of rain on the region during a 19-hour period.
    The widespread flash flooding washed out roads, pushed dams to their limits and beyond and killed at least three people along Colorado’s Rocky Mountain range, from Boulder south to Colorado Springs.

    National Guard troops aided by a break in the weather started airlifting 295 residents from the small community of Jamestown, which has been cut off and without power or water for more than a day.
    Dean Hollenbaugh, 79, decided to take one of the helicopters after officials warned electricity and water could be disrupted for weeks.
    "Essentially, what they were threatening us with is `if you stay here, you may be here for a month,'" Hollenbaugh said as he waited for his son to pick him up from the Boulder airport. "I felt I was OK. I mean I've camped in the mountains for a week at a time."
    Airlifts also were taking place to the east in Larimer County for people with special medical needs.

    "This one's going to bring us to our knees," said Tom Simmons, president and co-owner of Crating Technologies, a Longmont packing service that had its warehouse inundated. "It's hoping against hope. We're out of business for a long time."

    Between the Big Thompson and Little Thompson rivers, Jose Ayala spent Friday morning picking through what was left of his family's possessions in their two-story farmhouse near Berthoud.
    He and his sons watched the waters rise all Thursday evening, finally making the decision to flee at 11 p.m. with some documents and a computer.
    "The rest is in the house. All gone, basically," Ayala said.
    Some of the flooding was exacerbated by wildfire "burn scars" that have spawned flash floods all summer in the mountains. The flames strip away vegetation that normally helps absorbs excess water and leave a residue behind that sheds water.
    One person was killed when a structure in Jamestown collapsed. Another man drowned in floodwaters north of Boulder while trying to help the woman whose body was found Friday.
    To the south, Colorado Springs officers conducting flood patrols found the body of a 54-year-man in a creek.
    Associated Press writers Colleen Slevin, Steven K. Paulson and Thomas Peipert in Denver and Ben Neary in Longmont contributed to this report.

    Rescue Efforts Continue in the Rain

    Unusual storm
    The rain started falling in earnest about 6 p.m. Wednesday and continued into Thursday, sometimes at the rate of about an inch an hour, according to radar estimates. That added up to about 6 to 7 inches of total rainfall.
    “The rain, it almost feels like hail, the drops are so thick,” University of Colorado Boulder student Ryan Colla told CNN affiliate KUSA. “It just keeps coming and coming, and when you think it’s going to subside, it starts to rain down harder.”
    The sudden influx of water turned Boulder Creek — which runs through the campus and other parts of the city bearing its name — into a high, fast, muddy and dangerous torrent, Colla told the station.
    “It freaked us out,” he said.
    At its peak, Boulder Creek was flowing at 16 times its normal rate for this time of year, city spokeswoman Sara Huntley said.
    But that was not the only stream causing trouble, Pelle said. Unlike the last devastating flood in Boulder in 1969, this storm caused virtually every waterway in the area to overflow, he said.
    Water rushed through Aurora, east of Denver, swirling and breaking like an ocean hitting a beach. CNN affiliate KCNC captured video of one person stumbling dangerously while trying to cross an Aurora street and finally struggling at the edge of the water. Three onlookers pulled that person to safety.
    In Estes Park in Laramie County, KCNC video showed the Big Thompson River rushing above both sides of a bridge and flooding several small businesses.
    And rain is likely to continue to pose problems, CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said.
    “It could rain again all night,” he said.
    Dams threatened, roads washed away
    Between 25 and 30 roads were closed Thursday afternoon in Boulder County, Prentup said.
    Several roads washed away, including one near Lafayette — about 12 miles southeast of Boulder — where rescue crews staged the dramatic rescue of a man from an overturned, partially submerged car.
    Lafayette Fire Chief Gerry Morrell said it appeared three cars driving through pre-dawn darkness and heavy rain plunged into the void left when water washed out the road. Two other motorists got out of their cars, at least one with the aid of firefighters.
    At first, rescuers feared the last car’s occupant may have died after more than 30 minutes in the partially submerged car, Morrell said.
    The rescue — captured live on television — nearly went awry when the car, which had been pulled up so that it was on its side, turned back onto its roof in the swift water just as the man was preparing to climb through a window broken open by his rescuers.
    “I was aghast,” said Morrell, who watched the rescue unfold from the riverbank.
    “This was a devastating overnight storm in the area, and I anticipate that as the day goes on, we are likely to find other people who are victims of this storm,” the sheriff said Thursday. “We are bracing ourselves.”
    Frustrating night
    As dawn broke over the region, Pelle said he was “amassing a large-scale effort” to rescue those who are trapped, reach those who are stranded and deliver much needed aid to places like Lyons, where floodwater overtopped several dams protecting the town.
    Gov. John Hickenlooper said two National Guard Black Hawk helicopter search-and-rescue crews were sent to Boulder County, along with three swiftwater rescue teams and emergency managers. One helicopter and emergency managers were dispatched to Larimer County.
    Hickenlooper said the state didn’t immediately need outside help. The problem was reaching the most critical areas.
    Rescuers have been frustrated by debris, impassable roads and mudslides, Pelle said.
    “This is not your ordinary disaster,” Pelle said. “All the preparation in the world, all the want-to in the world, can’t put people up those canyons while debris and walls of water are coming down.”

    Contributing sources:

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