BOULDER, Colo. - Widespread flooding that's already killed
three Coloradans forced fresh evacuations of thousands of residents
Friday, as additional rainfall threatened already swollen rivers and
creeks along a 150-mile stretch of the state's Front Range.
15 miles north of Boulder, the Colorado National Guard began evacuating
2,000 residents of Lyons - isolated, without power and running water
because of flooded roads Thursday - at daybreak, according to the
Boulder County sheriff's office. In South Boulder County, 500 residents
in Eldorado Springs were also under evacuation orders. County emergency
personnel said the Guard was using high-clearance trucks to move Lyons
residents to safe areas.
no way out of town. There's no way into town. So, basically, now we're
just on an island," said Jason Stillman, 37, who was forced with his
fiancee to evacuate their home in Lyons after a nearby river began to
overflow into the street.
Flooding closed I-25, the state's main
north-south highway, north of Denver to the Wyoming border, among
several roads blocked by rising waters.
The National Weather
Service had a flood warning for Boulder County through Friday morning.
Flood warnings were also issued for the city of Loveland and Big
Thompson Canyon, site of the July 1976 flood that killed 143 people.
The Big Thompson River was reported over four feet above its flood
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said the state has lost "a
great deal of infrastructure,'' although an exact assessment over flood
damage could take weeks.
Hickenlooper urged residents near flood
areas to remain "exceptionally careful" and stay away from swollen
streams and rivers. "People try to walk through what looks like a
harmless foot or two of water. You have to realize this is like liquid
cement and you can be swept away."
The National Weather Service
forecast more rain over portions of Colorado Friday, with up to three
inches or more falling in some areas.
After today, "a slow-moving
area of low pressure over the Rockies, combined with a moist, southerly
flow at all levels of the atmosphere will keep the threat of locally
heavy rain and flooding in place into the weekend," says Weather Channel
meteorologist Chris Dolce.
In Boulder, officials issued emergency
alerts to 8,000 residents along normally tranquil Boulder Creek, urging
them to seek shelter elsewhere or move to higher ground. About 4,000
residents along Boulder Canyon faced mandatory evacuation. Officials
fear mud and rocks accumulating in Boulder Canyon will clog and cause a
sudden surge in water downstream.
Boulder County spokesman James Burrus said 17 people were unaccounted
for Friday, and officials planned to publicly release the names later.
"Unaccounted for doesn't mean missing. It means we haven't heard back
from them," he said.
The flood that swept down Boulder Creek was a
1-in-100 year event, the U.S. Geological Survey said Friday. The
college town is considered Colorado's 'most at risk' city to flooding
because of its proximity to Boulder Creek, which courses through Boulder
Canyon into the heart of town, says Weather Underground weather
historian Christopher Burt.
With up to a foot of rain falling in
some areas, grounds are so saturated that more rain could cause flash
floods in some areas, the Federal Emergency Management Agency warned.
Maine backpackers hiking Longs Peak were stranded when the weather
turned. Suzanne Turell and Connie Yang of York, Maine, last sent a text
message shortly after 7:07 a.m. Thursday with their GPS coordinates.
need help,'' said Turell, who added that they were at risk for
hypothermia because of an ice storm at elevations above 13,400 feet. The
cellphone has since gone dead,
Hundreds of residents spent
Thursday night at evacuation centers, while thousands remain without
power or are isolated by flooded roads. Friday morning, the creek was
just under flood stage.
Flooding along the Poudre River prompted
Fort Collins officials to "strongly urge"residents in at least four
neighborhoods to flee.
The National Weather Service said Windsor, Estes Park, Berthoud and Drake remain at risk for flooding.
home to the University of Colorado, was among the hardest hit by the
devastating waters. Classes have been canceled until at least Monday,
with 25% of the campus buildings water-damaged.
signed an emergency declaration Thursday night, freeing up federal aid
and allowing FEMA to coordinate disaster relief efforts.
extended all along the Front Range mountains - including in Denver,
Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, Greeley and Aurora - as well as scores
of small towns and mountain communities.
One person was killed in the collapse of a home in Jamestown, a
mountain community isolated by washed out roads, KUSA-TV in Denver
reported. Colorado Springs police found a second victim in Fountain
Creek -- later identified as 54-year-old Danny Davis. A third victim was
recovered from a north Boulder home Thursday morning. At least one
Boulder woman remained missing.
Boulder was doused with more than 7 inches of rain in 24 hours, shattering the town's 95-year record for rainfall.
Near the town of Lyons, rescuers were kept back when St. Vrain Creek swelled and a dam failed near Pinewood Springs.
"It's just raging, gushing water,'' Lyons resident Carin Gray said. "We're totally isolated.''