CONTROVERSIAL TOPICS

CONTROVERSIAL TOPICS

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Colorado floods triggered by convergence of geography and climate

 

 

 

 

 

Colorado floods triggered by convergence of geography and climate, experts say

Video: In Jamestown, Colo., roads have become impassable and hiking is now the only way in. A third of the town is gone, swallowed by the creek that divides it. NBC’s Miguel Almaguer reports.

The torrent of water that gushed over and down the Rocky Mountains late last week resulted from a fateful confluence of geography and weather. While the deluge is unprecedented in the historic record, it may offer a window onto the new normal as the planet continues to warm.

The exact role of global climate change in the deluge is uncertain, but it certainly played a part, according to climate, weather and policy experts.

As of Tuesday, more than 17 inches of rain had fallen since Sept. 12 in Boulder, Colo. The soaking, described as "biblical" by the National Weather Service, left at least eight people dead with hundreds more still missing and rendered untold millions of dollars in property damage.

Cause of the storm
The flooding resulted from a fetch of tropical moisture drawn north from Mexico by a weak, but large, upper-level low-pressure system that was blown up into the Rocky Mountains by a persistent southeasterly airflow, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"The moisture-laden air was thus moved upwards and forced" to turn to rain, "most prolifically" in the area between Interstate 25 and the Continental Divide, Martin Hoerling, a research meteorologist who studies climate variability at the administration's Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, explained to NBC News in an email.

Earlier in the summer, the region is prone to North American monsoon-type rains that come when heat in the Southwest draws up moisture from the tropics and causes thunderstorm activity in Arizona, Utah and Colorado, noted Bob Henson, a meteorologist and writer with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder.

But last week's rains came during what is typically Boulder's driest month and were unyielding in intensity — unlike the scattered thunderstorms of monsoon season. "What was unusual was that it lasted so long and produced heavy rain over such a large area," he told NBC News.

As the week wore on, "the moisture kept coming, and the rains kept falling, anchored geographically by the terrain," Hoerling added.

"Boulders running down rivers"
The foothills of the Rocky Mountains where the idyllic college town of Boulder rests are drained by a veiny network of streams and creeks that were turned into raging rivers as the rains fell.

"It was like living right next to a jet engine ... you could hear the boulders running down rivers at night, which was very eerie, creepy and disturbing," Bradley Udall, an expert on the impacts of climate change on water resources at the University of Colorado Law School in Boulder, told NBC News. "I couldn't go to sleep."

Udall has lived in Boulder off and on since the 1970s and not once seen anything close to the deluge of last week.

The 1976 flash flood in Big Thompson canyon between Estes Park and Loveland — a seemingly similar event which killed more than 100 people — was caused by a highly localized hovering thunderstorm that dumped more than 10 inches in four hours, he noted. The 1976 storm was over almost as quickly as it had begun, while the torrents of the past week kept up for days.

"If you would have told me a week ago that we could get 15 inches of rain here in a week, I would have laughed at you," Udall said. "There is just no analog for this type of storm for this time of year."

Deadly floods swamp Colorado

Image: Portable buildings lie piled together by flooding in a town in Weld County, Colo.

Rick Wilking

Days of heavy rainfall flooded Colorado mountain towns, obliterating roads and leaving many people stranded.

Climate change's fingerprint
The question then is what's behind the unusual confluence of factors that caused the unprecedented event, which Henson said is the type of flooding expected only about once every thousand years.

According to Hoerling, climate change was likely responsible for "about 3 to 5 percent" of the water vapor in the fetch of tropical moisture, given that a warmer atmosphere can hold more water and published studies indicate "a few percent increase in water vapor to date."

The rest, he said, is due to atmospheric circulation patterns that appear inconsistent with models used to simulate the global climate, including those being examined for theupcoming report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Those models project a slight decline in summertime rainfall, he said.

Video: The devastating floods have left residents living in shelters, and officials worrying about water-borne illnesses. With winter approaching, it will be a long road ahead to fix all of the bridges and roads across the state. NBC’s Kate Snow reports.

The caveat is a 2012 report from the panel that indicates heavy downpours may increase in intensity or frequency "'in the 21st century over many areas of the globe,'" Hoerling said. "It is unclear how, if at all, that assessment pertains to the Front Range, however."

According to Udall, to link the Colorado flooding to climate change is an invitation to criticism from some people in the climate science community, but "if anybody wants to tell me that climate change is not at least partially at work here, I'm going to tell them that they are (in denial)."

Determining whether the contribution is a few percent or 99 percent, he added, is beside the point and perhaps impossible with current modeling ability. That's the uncertain nature of climate science, he explained. But "some things are uncertain and scary enough that you actually do have to act."

Udall has spent much of the past decade lecturing on the threat of drought that climate change poses to the southwestern U.S. while downplaying the risk of floods, he noted. But climate models do indicate occasional high flow years on the Colorado River, which make sense given the increase in water vapor and high mountains to squeeze out the water, he said.

"What the scientists tell us is that these big flood events are probably more likely to occur in areas that are wetter, but that doesn't mean that we won't get them in these drier areas as well," he said. "It fits perfectly with the more extreme events on both sides of the drought-flood continuum."

People move around outside of their homes off Lee Hill Drive where Fourmile Canyon Creek overflowed, in Boulder, Colorado September 16, 2013. REUTERS-Mark Leffingwell

Members of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Urban Search and Rescue team inspect homes for headcount tally and offer assistance, at Lee Hill Drive in Boulder, Colorado September 16, 2013. REUTERS-Mark Leffingwell

A home with floodwater from Left Hand Creek running on both sides is seen in Boulder, Colorado September 16, 2013. REUTERS-Mark Leffingwell

By Keith Coffman

DENVER | Mon Sep 16, 2013 6:56pm EDT

(Reuters) - Seven people were confirmed dead and at least 1,500 homes destroyed in Colorado after a week of rare, torrential rains along the eastern slopes of the Rockies, and helicopter search-and-rescue flights resumed on Monday in flood-stricken areas.

Much of the evacuation effort was focused on remote foothill and canyon communities of Larimer and Boulder counties in north-central Colorado, where 1,000 residents remained stranded due to washed-out roads, bridges and communication lines, the county sheriff's office said.

Drizzle and patchy morning fog that had hampered airborne emergency operations lifted by afternoon, allowing National Guard helicopters to return to the skies to help ground teams find trapped flood victims and carry them to safety.

Ranchers were advised to move livestock away from rain-swollen streams as floodwaters spread further east onto the prairie, and authorities warned residents to be on the lookout for rattlesnakes that might be moving to higher ground.

Larimer and Boulder counties bore the brunt of flash floods first unleashed last week by heavy rains that started last Monday and drenched Colorado's biggest urban centers along a 130-mile stretch in the Front Range of the Rockies.

At the peak of the disaster, the heaviest deluge to hit the region in four decades, floodwaters streamed down rain-saturated mountainsides northwest of Denver and spilled through canyons funneling the runoff into populated areas below.

The flooding progressed downstream and spread onto the prairie on Friday. During the weekend, waters topped the banks of the South Platte River and inundated farmland as high water rolled eastward in the direction of Nebraska.

SAND-BAGGING RAILROAD TRACKS

State officials issued flood warnings to Nebraska residents along the South Platte. State emergency management spokeswoman Jodie Fawl said they began putting sandbags inside culverts beside a Union Pacific Railroad line in the town of Big Springs to prevent a wash-out of the tracks there.

The Colorado Office of Emergency Management issued a statement on the disaster, putting the official death toll at seven, up from five over the weekend, but a breakdown of the fatalities was not immediately available.

Separately, two women, aged 60 and 80, remained missing and presumed dead after their homes were washed away by flash flooding in the Big Thompson Canyon area, Larimer County sheriff's spokeswoman Jennifer Hillmann said. But she said local authorities were still not counting those two women as confirmed dead because their bodies had not been recovered.

Nearly 400 other people remain unaccounted for in Larimer County, with many believed to be still stranded in remote areas cut off by floodwaters and left without telephone, cell phone or Internet service, she said.

An estimated 1,500 homes have been destroyed and 4,500 more damaged in Larimer County alone, Hillmann said. In addition, 200 businesses have been lost and 500 damaged, she said, citing preliminary assessments by the county.

As the weather began to clear Sunday night and Monday, rescue workers fanned out across a flood zone encompassing an area nearly the size of Delaware.

"They'll take advantage of the weather today and help out everyone they can," said Micki Trost, a spokeswoman for the state Office of Emergency Management. "We hope that those weather forecasts stay in our favor."

The air rescue operations were the largest in the United States since flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, National Guard officials said.

Bryon Louis of the National Weather Service office in Boulder said some areas had been soaked by as much as 16 inches of rain in just three days, the average for an entire year in the semi-arid region.

President Barack Obama declared the area a major disaster over the weekend, freeing up federal funds and resources to aid state and local governments.

U.S. Army and National Guard troops have rescued 1,750 people cut off by washed-out roads in the mountain canyons of Boulder and Larimer counties, Army spokesman Major Earl Brown said in a statement.

State officials would be unable to assess the overall damage until rescue efforts were complete and the floodwaters had receded, Trost said.

The prolonged showers were caused by an atmospheric low-pressure system that stalled over Nevada and western Utah, drawing extremely moist air out of Mexico and streaming it north into the southern Rockies, meteorologists said.

The last multi-day rainfall event to spawn widespread flooding in Colorado's Front Range occurred in 1969. But a single-night deluge from a 1976 thunderstorm triggered a flash flood that killed more than 140 people in Big Thompson Canyon.

  • Six people are now presumed dead, including an 80-year-old woman who was washed from her home
  • With more than 1,200 unaccounted for the death toll is anticipated to rise
  • Driving rain and low cloud ceilings on Sunday grounded the air resources
  • Nearly 19,000 homes damaged and 11,700 people evacuated so far
  • Heavy rains that started Wednesday sparked flash-flooding from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs
  • Residents urged to leave now or risk being stranded for weeks without water or power
  • President Obama has approved a federal disaster assistance request for the area and National Guard have been dispatched

An 80-year-old woman in Colorado is missing presumed dead after her home was washed away in the deadly floods that have devastated parts of the state.

The woman, whose named hasn’t been released, is the latest victim feared dead from the week-long rains, said sheriff's spokesman John Schulz.

‘The woman was injured and couldn't get out of her house, and when neighbors went back to help her, the house was gone,’ Schulz said.

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Federal disaster area: Colorado authorities have warned that the death toll is expected to rise from historic flooding in the state, the presumed total now stands at six

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Volunteers pass sandbags as residents reinforce the dam on University Hill in Boulder, Colo., on Sunday

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More than 1,200 people are missing in the flood zone, which has grown to cover an area covering nearly 4,500 square miles (11,655 square kilometers), nearly the size of the U.S. state of Connecticut

He said another 60-year-old woman whose home was also swept way in the same area of the Big Thompson Canyon had likely perished as well.

Four people have been confirmed dead from the flooding, but authorities warned on Sunday that they expect the death toll to rise as more than 1,200 people remain unaccounted for.

'I expect that we're going to continue to receive reports of confirmed missing and confirmed fatalities throughout the next several days,' said Schulz. The four confirmed deaths so far include Wesley Quinlan and Wiyanna Nelson, both 19, who were swept away after leaving their car Thursday in Boulder County.

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A woman pets her dog, while one of her birds rests on her shoulder at the LifeBridge Church in Longmont, Colo., which is providing food and shelter for families and pets

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People are directed off the tarmac at Boulder Municipal Airport after being flown down from Jamestown on a National Guard helicopter after being stranded from heavy rains in Boulder, Colorado

Another person was found in a collapsed home in Jamestown, while rescuers found another body on a roadway in Colorado Springs.

President Barack Obama declared the area a federal disaster over the weekend.

U.S. National Guard and U.S. Army troops have rescued 1,750 people cut off by washed-out roads in the mountain canyons of Boulder and Larimer counties, Army spokesman Major Earl Brown said in a statement.

Driving rain and low cloud ceilings on Sunday grounded the air resources until the weather clears, officials said.

Meanwhile, residents in the farming communities of northeastern Colorado are braced for a surge from the north-flowing South Platte River.

Morgan County Sheriff James Crone said all eight bridges spanning waterways in the county were impassable from the rising river. ‘Our county is cut in half,’ he told The Denver Post.

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An aerial photo of a flood-affected area of northern Colorado along the Big Thompson River which has been declared a federal disaster area

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A woman and little girl rush into LifeBridge Church to escape the new rain in Longmont, Colo., on Sunday

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Water flows through an evacuated neighborhood after days of flooding in Hygeine, Colo., rain returned on Sunday creating a risk of more flooding and mudslides

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A tractor is bogged down in mud and water from flooding on the South Platte River on a farm near Greeley, Colo., on Sunday as heavy rains continued

Crone said there would be significant crop damage from standing water in the corn, hay, millet and sugar beet fields that dot the agricultural county.

‘There is no way for the water to drain, so come November when it freezes, it's going to be one huge ice cube,’ he said.

Forty miles northeast in Logan County, authorities have ordered evacuations as the river crest was forecast to exceed historic levels.

Emergency Manager Bob Owens warned residents to prepare for sustained flooding over the next several days. ‘This is going to be severe,’ he said in a statement.

Early damage tallies by the Office of Emergency Management show 17,494 homes damaged and 1,502 destroyed and 11,700 people have been evacuated.

Safe: Bonnie Dannelly hugs her daughter Makayla after she got off the bus at Fireside Elementary in Louisville, on Saturday. Makayla Dannelly was one of over 80 Fireside 5th graders who were trapped above Jamestown at Camp Cal-Wood

Safe: Bonnie Dannelly hugs her daughter Makayla after she got off the bus at Fireside Elementary in Louisville, on Saturday. Makayla Dannelly was one of over 80 Fireside 5th graders who were trapped above Jamestown at Camp Cal-Wood

Military Operation: A handout aerial image released by the US Army on 15 September 2013 shows 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, soldiers evacuating fifth-grade students from Firewood Elementary

Military Operation: A handout aerial image released by the US Army on 15 September 2013 shows 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, soldiers evacuating fifth-grade students from Firewood Elementary

Almost 100 school school children and teachers left stranded for two days by the massive flooding that hit around Boulder, Colorado were airlifted to safety on Saturday as the number of presumed dead rose to six - with over 700 more missing.

The students from Fireside Elementary School in Louisville, Colorado - around 10 miles to the southeast of Boulder - were trapped when flood-waters burst over roads at an outdoor education center in Jamestown.

The 85 fifth graders and 14 adults were lifted from the mountainside by helicopter and taken to Boulder Municipal Airport where they were loaded onto buses and reunited with their emotional parents at Fireside Elementary on Saturday evening.

'All the kids are down from the mountains and either delivered here or en route,' said Briggs Gamblin, a spokesman for the Boulder Valley School District.

Despite being trapped by the rising flood-waters, the children ate tacos with all the fixings for dinner on Friday evening and were kept occupied by a dance party.

Pulled to Safety: The 4th Combat Aviation Brigade was able to assist state and local emergency response efforts under the Immediate Response Authority

Pulled to Safety: The 4th Combat Aviation Brigade was able to assist state and local emergency response efforts under the Immediate Response Authority

Rescued: Families cheer as a bus carrying several Fireside Elementary 5th graders who were trapped at Camp-Calwood arrive to school in Louisville, Colorado on September 14, 2013

Rescued: Families cheer as a bus carrying several Fireside Elementary 5th graders who were trapped at Camp-Calwood arrive to school in Louisville, Colorado on September 14, 2013

'Last night around 5 o'clock we got a request from the National Guard for assistance,' said Major Earl Brown, deputy public affairs officer for the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson.

In total, seven helicopters, including four Blackhawks, were used to airlift the children and adults out of the area.

'We're just a part of a whole team effort to help those folks out there in Boulder County,' said Brown to NBC News.

As rain continued to fall on Sunday in Colorado, efforts to search for the missing were hampered as the National Guard grounded all helicopters in the state.

'It's unlikely at this point that we'll be able to reach those who are stranded in the hard-to-reach areas,' said Kim Kobel, a spokesperson for Boulder's Office of Emergency Management to CNN.

Governor John Hickenlooper, told CNN on Sunday morning that he hoped many of the missing were simply out of reach of communications and have 'already gotten out or are staying with friends.'

'But,' he added, 'we're still bracing. I mean, there are many, many homes that have been destroyed.'

An aerial view of mobile homes submerged in flood waters along the South Platte River near Greenley, Colorado September 14, 2013

An aerial view of mobile homes submerged in flood waters along the South Platte River near Greenley, Colorado September 14, 2013

A section of highway is washed out by flooding along the South Platte River in Weld County, Colorado near Greeley, Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013

A section of highway is washed out by flooding along the South Platte River in Weld County, Colorado near Greeley, Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013

Lucky: Jon Tarkington with his daughter Evy, 1, look over a diversion dam built in the intersection of 7th Street and University Ave on University Hill in Boulder, Colorado on Saturday

Lucky: Jon Tarkington with his daughter Evy, 1, look over a diversion dam built in the intersection of 7th Street and University Ave on University Hill in Boulder, Colorado on Saturday

Result: A farm house is surrounded by water from flooding on the South Platte River near Greeley, Colo., on Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013

Result: A farm house is surrounded by water from flooding on the South Platte River near Greeley, Colo., on Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013

Crossroads: As heavy rains return after somewhat abating for two days, a field fills with water from overflowing creeks nearby, outside Longmont, Colorado on Sunday Sept. 15, 2013

Crossroads: As heavy rains return after somewhat abating for two days, a field fills with water from overflowing creeks nearby, outside Longmont, Colorado on Sunday Sept. 15, 2013

Frantic: Dean Beacom works to save his home from a flash flood near 19th Street and Upland Avenue, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013 as

Frantic: Dean Beacom works to save his home from a flash flood near 19th Street and Upland Avenue, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013 as Steve Gabel (left) and Patrick Muir move a soaked couch out from Muir's apartment

Frantic: Dean Beacom works to save his home from a flash flood near 19th Street and Upland Avenue, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013 as Steve Gabel (left) and Patrick Muir move a soaked couch out from Muir's apartment

Justin Slyter with Par Electrical Contractors looks over fallen power poles in a office complex on Arapahoe Avenue next to Eben G Fine Park in Boulder on Saturday Sept, 14, 2013

Justin Slyter with Par Electrical Contractors looks over fallen power poles in a office complex on Arapahoe Avenue next to Eben G Fine Park in Boulder on Saturday Sept, 14, 2013

Damage: A car lies on its side in a mud slide on Saturday, Sept. 14, on Olde Stage Road in Boulder, Colo. Rescuers rushed by land and by air Saturday to evacuate Coloradoans stranded by epic mountain flooding

Damage: A car lies on its side in a mud slide on Saturday, Sept. 14, on Olde Stage Road in Boulder, Colo. Rescuers rushed by land and by air Saturday to evacuate Coloradoans stranded by epic mountain flooding

Swept away: A large chunk of road near Greenley, Colorado, has been demolished by the flood

Swept away: A large chunk of road near Greenley, Colorado, has been demolished by the flood

Torn: Evan Russack with his son Trevor, 6, look over Pennsylvania Ave on University Hill which was cut in two by flooding on Saturday Sept, 14, 2013

Torn: Evan Russack with his son Trevor, 6, look over Pennsylvania Ave on University Hill which was cut in two by flooding on Saturday Sept, 14, 2013

Collapsed: Lefthand Canyon Road near the intersection of Olde Stage Road in Boulder, Colo., on Saturday, Sept. 14, in Boulder. Rescuers rushed by land and by air Saturday to evacuate Coloradoans stranded by epic mountain flooding

Collapsed: Lefthand Canyon Road near the intersection of Olde Stage Road in Boulder, Colo., on Saturday, Sept. 14, in Boulder. Rescuers rushed by land and by air Saturday to evacuate Coloradoans stranded by epic mountain flooding

Relief: Brian Montgomery helps his mother Barbara Yanari to clean up the mud in her flooded basement on Saturday, Sept. 14, on Olde Stage Road in Boulder, Colorado

Relief: Brian Montgomery helps his mother Barbara Yanari to clean up the mud in her flooded basement on Saturday, Sept. 14, on Olde Stage Road in Boulder, Colorado

Escape: Anita and Art Powner evacuate with their dogs Zypher and Lexus on Saturday, Sept. 14, on Olde Stage Road in Boulder. Rescuers rushed by land and by air Saturday to evacuate Coloradoans stranded

Escape: Anita and Art Powner evacuate with their dogs Zypher and Lexus on Saturday, Sept. 14, on Olde Stage Road in Boulder. Rescuers rushed by land and by air Saturday to evacuate Coloradoans stranded

Sheriff Justin Smith visited areas 'somewhat cut off from the rest of the world,' he said.

Many residents are still stranded in their homes as rescue workers try to reach them.

Rescue teams are warning people in some Colorado towns isolated by devastating flooding against remaining there, telling them that they could face weeks without basic supplies, including running water and electricity.

Helicopters and truck convoys of the National Guard carried the admonition Saturday into paralyzed canyon communities where thousands of stranded residents were eager to escape the Rocky Mountain foothills. But not everybody was willing to go. Dozens of people in hard hit Jamestown wanted to stay to watch over their homes.

Authorities made clear that residents who chose not to leave might not get another chance for a while. Rescuers won't go back for people who insist on staying, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said.

'We're not trying to force anyone from their home. We're not trying to be forceful, but we're trying to be very factual and definitive about the consequences of their decision, and we hope that they will come down,' Pelle said.

Aerial: Photographs shows the damage and flooding to infrastructure destroyed by heavy rains, with some areas receiving as much as 18 inches in a 24-hour period, in Boulder, Colorado

Aerial: Photographs shows the damage and flooding to infrastructure destroyed by heavy rains, with some areas receiving as much as 18 inches in a 24-hour period, in Boulder, Colorado

Four people have been confirmed dead since the harrowing floods began Wednesday

Four people have been confirmed dead since the harrowing floods began Wednesday

Special education teacher Brian Shultz, 38, was torn about leaving his Jamestown home.

'I was thinking about staying. I could have lasted at least a year. I have a lot of training in wilderness survival,' he said, adding that he probably had enough beer to last the whole time.

As he sat outside a makeshift shelter at a high school, Shultz floated the idea of walking back into the funky mountain town.

'If we hike back, I would stay there and just live. I'd rather be at our own house than staying at some other people's houses,' he said.

His wife, Meagan Harrington, gave him a wry smile. About 10 of their neighbors declined to evacuate, she said.

'They said they wouldn't force you, but it was strongly encouraged,' she said.

Shultz teared up behind his sunglasses as he compared his situation to that of his neighbors.
Eroded: A handout aerial image released by the US Army on 15 September 2013 shows damage and flooding to infrastructure destroyed by heavy rains, with some areas receiving as much as 18 inches in a 24-hour period

Eroded: A handout aerial image released by the US Army on 15 September 2013 shows damage and flooding to infrastructure destroyed by heavy rains, with some areas receiving as much as 18 inches in a 24-hour period

'At least all of our stuff's there and will be there when we get back. The people right by the river, their houses were washed away. Other people thought their houses were going to be OK, and then they started to go. It's just really devastating.'

Across the foothills, rescuers made progress against the floodwaters. But they were still unable to go up many narrow canyon roads that were either underwater or washed out.

President Obama signed a disaster declaration and ordered federal aid for Colorado on Saturday. The White House said in a statement that it was making federal funding available to affected individuals in Boulder County. The government said that other counties could be added later.

The military put more troops on the ground and helicopters in the air to aid in the search-and-rescue effort.

By Saturday night, 1,750 people and 300 pets had been evacuated from Boulder and Larimer County, National Guard Lt. James Goff said.

Destroyed: Cars lie wrecked by raging flood-waters near to Boulder, Colorado after days of heavy rain in the state

Destroyed: Cars lie wrecked by raging flood-waters near to Boulder, Colorado after days of heavy rain in the state

Demolished: The walls of this home have been washed away on South Platte River

Demolished: The walls of this home have been washed away on South Platte River

Colorado residents wade through flooded streets

Wrecked: Only the roof of a Jamestown house remains after flash floods ripped through the town

Wrecked: Only the roof of a Jamestown house remains after flash floods ripped through the town

Cut off: A farm house is completely surrounded by rising water

Cut off: A farm house is completely surrounded by rising water

Evacuation: Residents have been told if they don't leave they risk being cut off for two weeks

Evacuation: Residents have been told if they don't leave they risk being cut off for two weeks

Over 85 fifth-graders airlifted from Colorado flooding areas

An aerial view of vehicles submerged in flood waters along the South Platte River near Greenley, Colorado

An aerial view of vehicles submerged in flood waters along the South Platte River near Greenley, Colorado

Underwater: The small farming town of Milliken, CO, has been surrounded by waters that first turned it into an island, but are now inundating homes

Underwater: The small farming town of Milliken, CO, has been surrounded by waters that first turned it into an island, but are now inundating homes

Runaway homes: Trailer homes are floating off their foundations as rushing waters sweep them away

Runaway homes: Trailer homes are floating off their foundations as rushing waters sweep them away

Not just homes: Farms and farm equipment are also being destroyed by the treacherous waters

Not just homes: Farms and farm equipment are also being destroyed by the treacherous waters

Unprecedented: The 12 inches of rain recorded since Sept 1 has set an all-time record for the month, and even more is on the way

Unprecedented: The 12 inches of rain recorded since Sept 1 has set an all-time record for the month, and even more is on the way

Sludge: Brian Montgomery wades through thick mud in the basement of his mother's home

Sludge: Brian Montgomery wades through thick mud in the basement of his mother's home

Deserted: Residents are being taken to evacuation centers amid reports of more storms

Deserted: Residents are being taken to evacuation centers amid reports of more storms

Access: Heavy equipment is used to try to clear debris from a road covered in 20ft banks of mud

Access: Heavy equipment is used to try to clear debris from a road covered in 20ft banks of mud

Damage: An estimated $150 million of repair work will be needed to fix roads and bridges that have been washed away

Damage: An estimated $150 million of repair work will be needed to fix roads and bridges that have been washed away

Cut off: A farm house has been turned into an island as flood water rises near Greenley, Colorado

Cut off: A farm house has been turned into an island as flood water rises near Greenley, Colorado

By land: The Army National Guard has brought in heavy equipment meant to assist in the rescue of trapped residents

By land: The Army National Guard has brought in heavy equipment meant to assist in the rescue of trapped residents

Or by sea: Officials are also using motorboats to help save trapped people

Or by sea: Officials are also using motorboats to help save trapped people

Shocked: Residents are shell-shocked, many have lost everything, as a result of the historic floods

Shocked: Residents are shell-shocked, many have lost everything, as a result of the historic floods

Waterlogged: Cattle brave the fierce waters on higher ground as everything around them is swept away

Waterlogged: Cattle brave the fierce waters on higher ground as everything around them is swept away

Swamped: A railway track in Longmont is lost under floodwater

Swamped: A railway track in Longmont is lost under floodwater

Ruined: Trailer homes have been washed away in the water

Ruined: Trailer homes have been washed away in the water

The surge: Flash-flooding continues in the Boulder-area of Colorado after three days of record-breaking rainfall

The surge: Flash-flooding continues in the Boulder-area of Colorado after three days of record-breaking rainfall

Overflowing: The heavy rains have impacted a large stretch of Colorado from Fort Collins near the northern border with Wyoming, all the way to Boulder, Denver and Colorado Springs more than 100 miles south

Overflowing: The heavy rains have impacted a large stretch of Colorado from Fort Collins near the northern border with Wyoming, all the way to Boulder, Denver and Colorado Springs more than 100 miles south

Geysers of sewage: A Sewer in Manitou Springs is overwhelmed by rainfall yesterday, gurgling the overflow of water

Geysers of sewage: A Sewer in Manitou Springs is overwhelmed by rainfall yesterday, gurgling the overflow of water

Record-breaking: Over 12 inches of rain has fallen since September 1, which shatters the previous record set in the 1940s of 5.5 inches

Record-breaking: Over 12 inches of rain has fallen since September 1, which shatters the previous record set in the 1940s of 5.5 inches

View from above: Satellite imaging shows the storm system that swept over the eastern Colorado area on September 11, starting flash-floods that have killed three so far

View from above: Satellite imaging shows the storm system that swept over the eastern Colorado area on September 11, starting flash-floods that have killed three so far

Flee: The floods have displaced thousands of human residents, but also the wildlife in Colorado. Above, a deer jumps over a sidewalk in a flood-damaged area of Boulder

Flee: The floods have displaced thousands of human residents, but also the wildlife in Colorado. Above, a deer jumps over a sidewalk in a flood-damaged area of Boulder

Aerial views of flood damage as death toll rises in Colorado

'Wall of water': Around midnight, officials said they were monitoring a wall of water headed toward the area of Emerson Gulch

'Wall of water': Around midnight, officials said they were monitoring a wall of water headed toward the area of Emerson Gulch

Churning: Boulder Creek is overflowing and threatening the city of Boulder, which it runs right through

Churning: Boulder Creek is overflowing and threatening the city of Boulder, which it runs right through

Swept away: The 30-foot wall of water was caused when a drainage gulch burst and swept up debris and vehicles in it's path

Swept away: The 30-foot wall of water was caused when a drainage gulch burst and swept up debris and vehicles in it's path

Won't stop: Rain continued to fall in Colorado today, only adding to the already dangerous flash-flooding

Won't stop: Rain continued to fall in Colorado today, only adding to the already dangerous flash-flooding

Stream: Water spills over a hillside home at the base of Boulder Canyon today

Stream: Water spills over a hillside home at the base of Boulder Canyon today

Emergency situation: The National Guard has been dispatched to help rescue people stranded in their homes

Emergency situation: The National Guard has been dispatched to help rescue people stranded in their homes

Exploring: Umbrella-toting residents take pictures of the damage the flooding had on a street in Boulder on Friday

Exploring: Umbrella-toting residents take pictures of the damage the flooding had on a street in Boulder on Friday

Home invasion: A couple returns to find their home Friday to find it water-damaged from the previous days floods

Home invasion: A couple returns to find their home Friday to find it water-damaged from the previous days floods

Survivor: So far, officials have announced three deaths related to the flooding. Above, a man is rescued by emergency workers after he spent the night trapped on high ground above his home

Survivor: So far, officials have announced three deaths related to the flooding. Above, a man is rescued by emergency workers after he spent the night trapped on high ground above his home

Battling the storm: A man in Boulder attempts to make a mud barrier to protect his house from the flooding

Battling the storm: A man in Boulder attempts to make a mud barrier to protect his house from the flooding

Boots are no use: Homeowner Hannah Hinseth returns to her home to survey the damage caused by the severe flooding

Boots are no use: Homeowner Hannah Hinseth returns to her home to survey the damage caused by the severe flooding

Street sweepers: Residents shovel debris to form a protective dike in a neighborhood of Boulder

Street sweepers: Residents shovel debris to form a protective dike in a neighborhood of Boulder

Cut-off: Towns like Magnolia, above, have been completely shut off after the raging waters washed out roads

Cut-off: Towns like Magnolia, above, have been completely shut off after the raging waters washed out roads

Waiting for rescue: All road access to the town of Lyons, Colorado was cut-off and National Guard troops have been dispatched to bring residents emergency supplies. Above a wiped out road near the base of Boulder Canyon

Waiting for rescue: All road access to the town of Lyons, Colorado was cut-off and National Guard troops have been dispatched to bring residents emergency supplies. Above a wiped out road near the base of Boulder Canyon

Baby's first flood: A young family take a walk on Friday to survey the damage in their Boulder neighborhood

Baby's first flood: A young family take a walk on Friday to survey the damage in their Boulder neighborhood

A river runs through it: Lefthand Creek runs down a neighborhood street in Longmont, Colorado Friday

A river runs through it: Lefthand Creek runs down a neighborhood street in Longmont, Colorado Friday

Clean-up: Today, a farmer is seen clearing debris from railroad tracks in Longmont, Colorado

Clean-up: Today, a farmer is seen clearing debris from railroad tracks in Longmont, Colorado

Back at last: Evelyn Mortiz carries her luggage barefoot back home after spending the night with friends during the mandatory evacuation in her area

Back at last: Evelyn Mortiz carries her luggage barefoot back home after spending the night with friends during the mandatory evacuation in her area

Cleaning house: Lucas Calderon-Griek uses a broom to sweep out the water from his home in Upland

Cleaning house: Lucas Calderon-Griek uses a broom to sweep out the water from his home in Upland

Aid: Colorado National Guardsmen help relocate a family trapped at their heavily-flooded home

Aid: Colorado National Guardsmen help relocate a family trapped at their heavily-flooded home

Record-breaking: The former record for rainfall during the month of September was 5.5 inches. That's been shattered already with the National Weather Service saying that 12.3 inches have fallen

Record-breaking: The former record for rainfall during the month of September was 5.5 inches. That's been shattered already with the National Weather Service saying that 12.3 inches have fallen

 

Weather gone wild! Incredible National Geographic pictures show the awesome power of mother nature across America

Breath-taking photographs of wild weather conditions plaguing areas across the United States in 2011 have showcased the untamed hand of Mother Nature.

The apocalyptic collection of images, published in the September 2012 issue of National Geographic magazine, captures ‘rains that are almost biblical, heat waves that don't end and tornadoes that strike in savage swarms,' summing up what was a truly incredible year of extreme weather systems.

Well-placed photographer Daniel Bryant was in the Valley of the Sun in July 2011 to capture the massive dust storm that descended upon the Arizona capital of Phoenix.

Photograph by Daniel Bryant ARIZONA

The biggest dust storm in living memory rolls into Phoenix on July 5, 2011, reducing visibility to zero. Desert thunderstorms kicked up the mile-high wall of dust and sand. Photograph by Daniel Bryant

The tempest of historic proportions rolled through the city as residents scrambled for cover and thousands were left without power in the scorching desert heat.

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Severe droughts in the Lone Star State were described as 'gut-kicking even by Texas standards’ and photographer Robb Kendrick depicted the devastation of the rainless region in his spectacular collection of images.

Dubbed the ‘New Dust Bowl,’ the epic dry spell was judged to be even more severe than the extreme drought of the 1950s, with Texas farmers losing an estimated $8 billion due to the lack of rain in 2011.

Colorado's Front Range, Samaras

Gusting winds fling dirt from barren cotton fields onto Farm to Market Road 303, near a small community called Pep. Parts of West Texas saw next to no rainfall in 2011. Photograph by Robb Kendrick

Yazoo River

Fortified by a levee, a house near Vicksburg survives a Yazoo River flood in May 2011. Snowmelt and intense rains, eight times as much rainfall as usual in parts of the Mississippi River watershed, triggered floods that caused three to four billion dollars in damages. Photograph by Scott Olson

But the wild weather conditions were not limited to dust storms and droughts.

In May 2011, melting snow and rainfall eight times the normal level caused the Mississippi River to break its banks, devastating the area and resulting in an estimated $4 billion of damage to local homes and businesses.

Photographer Scott Olson was there, capturing awe-inspiring images of the deluge from above.

For a separate National Geographic photo spread, titled 'Chasing Lightning', photographer Carsten Peter followed storm tracker Tim Samaras as he tempted fate to get as close as possible to powerful lightening bolts around the U.S.

Samaras

As he waits for a wave of thunderstorms to form along Colorado's Front Range, Samaras readies the 1,600-pound camera he calls the Kahuna. Photograph by Carsten Peter

Samaras

Back on the highway with the Kahuna in tow, Samaras hunts for the elusive shot. This summer he's on the chase again, with new, nimbler equipment. Photograph by Carsten Peter

Samaras

Guided by the laptop weather map reflected in his window, Tim Samaras rushes to catch up to a dying thunderstorm. He hopes to be the first to photograph the split-second event that triggers a lightning strike. Photograph by Carsten Peter

  • Flash floods caused by six inches of rain in Boulder and Jefferson Counties
  • Mandatory evacuation orders issued for parts of Jamestown and Fourmile
  • At least three deaths have been reported
  • Flood warnings for Broomfield, Adams, Weld, Larimer, and El Paso counties

Scores of homes have been destroyed and at least three people killed after heavy overnight rainfall sparked flash flooding across Colorado in the early hours this morning.

Flooding was reported from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs, more than 100 miles south. Boulder County, including the city of Boulder, was one of the hardest hit areas, with as much as six inches falling in just 12 hours overnight into this morning causing rock and mudslides.

Four more inches are expected to fall today, prompting local officials to call in the National Guard and FEMA.

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Emergency: Three people have been killed and hundreds evacuated after heavy rains overnight caused flash-flooding in Boulder and Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Emergency: Three people have been killed and hundreds evacuated after heavy rains overnight caused flash-flooding in Boulder and Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Strong: The flash flooding tore apart streets, which caused three vehicles to crash into a creek in Broomfield, Colorado today

Strong: The flash flooding tore apart streets, which caused three vehicles to crash into a creek in Broomfield, Colorado today

Pile-up: Flash-flooding is affecting other areas of Colorado outside Boulder including Coal Creek, above, near Golden Colorado

Pile-up: Flash-flooding is affecting other areas of Colorado outside Boulder including Coal Creek, above, near Golden Colorado

Surrounded: A home is stranded in the the flash-flooding of Coal Creek near Golden, Colorado

Surrounded: A home is stranded in the the flash-flooding of Coal Creek near Golden, Colorado

Affected areas: Mandatory evacuation ordered have been issued for parts of Jamestown and Fourmile in Boulder County, Colarado, while parts of northwest Jefferson County have also seen flash floods

Affected areas: Mandatory evacuation ordered have been issued for parts of Jamestown and Fourmile in Boulder County, Colarado, while parts of northwest Jefferson County have also seen flash floods

Residents ride doughnut rings in Boulder Colorado flash floods

Officials have already reported three deaths connected to the flooding. Two were found in Boulder County. One of the bodies was found in a building that collapsed in Jamestown.

The third body was found in Colorado Springs by emergency crews on flood-watch patrol.

Sheriff Pelle said it was possible that the death toll would rise throughout the day.

'This event is not over. It’s far from over. It’s continuing to build,’ Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said.

The National Weather Service warned there would be an ‘extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation’ in the region.

They warned residents: ‘Move to higher ground now. Act quickly to protect your life.’

Several emergency shelters have been set up within the area. One shelter has been set up at Lyons Elementary School where 200 evacuees were being brought blankets and supplies by the National Guard.

Extremely dangerous: A Boulder Office of Emergency Management spokesman says the flooding is 'extremely dangerous'

Extremely dangerous: A Boulder Office of Emergency Management spokesman says the flooding is 'extremely dangerous'

Washed up: Three men at Namaste Solar help remove debris from behind the business after the floor swept through North Boulder on Thursday

Washed up: Three men at Namaste Solar help remove debris from behind the business after the floor swept through North Boulder on Thursday

Battered: The flash flooding has hit Boulder, Colorado the hardest

Battered: The flash flooding has hit Boulder, Colorado the hardest

Rushing waters: A man takes a picture of the dangerously high Boulder Creek after the overnight flash-flooding in downtown Boulder

Rushing waters: A man takes a picture of the dangerously high Boulder Creek after the overnight flash-flooding in downtown Boulder

Churning: The widespread flooding in Colorado has already led to three reported deaths

Churning: The widespread flooding in Colorado has already led to three reported deaths

Destruction: The flash flooding has left cars stranded. Above, first responders rescue a man from his overturned car

Destruction: The flash flooding has left cars stranded. Above, first responders rescue a man from his overturned car

Safe: Emergency crews were able to pull the man trapped in his car to safety

Safe: Emergency crews were able to pull the man trapped in his car to safety

Michael Aisner, who lives in the Pinebrook area, says his entire neighborhood was evacuated.

He was at the hospital visiting a friend when his area was evacuated, so his roommates left by car and drove up to a saddle road for safety.

They heard a friend's parents were trapped in a nearby home where boulders were smashing into the house and the home was sliding due to the heavy mud.

They rescued the elderly couple who proceeded to hike over a mountain and hitchhike to a local hotel for shelter.

Aisner just got word that his house is still in tact and plans to spend another night at the hospital.

Overflow: A bicyclist stands underneath an overflowing bridge last night in Boulder

Overflow: A bicyclist stands underneath an overflowing bridge last night in Boulder

Not stopping: Forecasters expect four more inches of rain to fall in the area Thursday

Not stopping: Forecasters expect four more inches of rain to fall in the area Thursday

The damage: A city worker surveys the water levels on Boulder Creek Thursday morning after overnight flash-flooding

The damage: A city worker surveys the water levels on Boulder Creek Thursday morning after overnight flash-flooding

Boulder Police dispatchers have been receiving calls of flooding basements and homes and of flooded streets and submerged cars.

Authorities said the flooding has made many Boulder streets impassable.

Emergency Management Director Mike Chard said people should avoid creeks and waterways, and not attempt to cross flooded intersections in their cars.

A spokeswoman for Boulder Police and Fire Department told NBC News that water levels have reached first-floor windows in some parts of the city with people trapped inside their homes or vehicles.

She said: 'There was one woman that was on top of a vehicle and the vehicle was actually on its side.'

Protecting students: The University of Colorado: Boulder has evacuated students from first-floor dorms

Protecting students: The University of Colorado: Boulder has evacuated students from first-floor dorms

Citizen journalists: Colorado residents took to Instagram to capture the beautiful, yet scary, flooding in downtown Boulder

Citizen journalists: Colorado residents took to Instagram to capture the beautiful, yet scary, flooding in downtown Boulder

Currents: The high waters almost overtake a park bench in a wooded area of Boulder

Currents: The high waters almost overtake a park bench in a wooded area of Boulder

Another office of Emergency Management spokesman said that the conditions were 'extremely dangerous'.

There is water everywhere,' said spokesman Andrew Barth. 'We've had several structural collapses, there's mud and mulch and debris everywhere. Cars are stranded all over the place.

Hundred have been evacuated from their homes in parts of Jamestown and Fourmile in Boulder, while over 400 students at the University of Colorado were being evacuated from their first floor dorms.

The university is reported that 40 buildings have been damaged by water – 25 per cent of the campus.

A university spokesman said it could be two to three weeks before certain students can return to their residence halls.

Overtaken: Overnight flash-flooding has drowned parts of this park in downtown Boulder

Overtaken: Overnight flash-flooding has drowned parts of this park in downtown Boulder

Rising waters: Instagram user Jud Valeski wrote 'Glad we rebuilt that bridge recently'

Rising waters: Instagram user Jud Valeski wrote 'Glad we rebuilt that bridge recently'

Morning rush: A police officer in Boulder monitors the traffic after last night's flash flooding

Morning rush: A police officer in Boulder monitors the traffic after last night's flash flooding

Trapped: The flash flooding happened so fast that people were trapped in their homes and cars and dive teams had to rescue them

Trapped: The flash flooding happened so fast that people were trapped in their homes and cars and dive teams had to rescue them

Get out: Mandatory evacuations have been ordered for parts of Jamestown and Fourmile in Boulder

Get out: Mandatory evacuations have been ordered for parts of Jamestown and Fourmile in Boulder

Knee-deep water: Residents in Boulder, Colorado, walk through a flooded underpass after heavy rainfall

Knee-deep water: Residents in Boulder, Colorado, walk through a flooded underpass after heavy rainfall Evacuation: Towns have been evacuated after the National Weather Service warned of 'life-threatening' flash floods in Boulder County and northwest Jefferson County Evacuation: Towns have been evacuated after the National Weather Service warned of 'life-threatening' flash floods in Boulder County and northwest Jefferson County

Flood water: Residents can be seen wading through flood water in Boulder, Colorado, as authorities warned of life-threatening flash floods

Flood water: Residents can be seen wading through flood water in Boulder, Colorado, as authorities warned of life-threatening flash floods

Wading: Stranded cars are towed out of the water by crews on South Boulder Road

Wading: Stranded cars are towed out of the water by crews on South Boulder Road

Off road: A piece of road was swept away and caused three cars to crash into a creek

Off road: A piece of road was swept away and caused three cars to crash into a creek

Storage under water: David Platco looks over a flooded and damage storage facility in North Boulder

Storage under water: David Platco looks over a flooded and damage storage facility in North Boulder

Pranks: Some residents took the flooding less seriously and decided to use water inflatables to get around

Pranks: Some residents took the flooding less seriously and decided to use water inflatables to get around

The flooding happened so fast that many people were trapped in their homes and cars when water started to surround them.

Emergency crews in Lafayette County rescued one man trapped in his overturned car. Others have been rescued sitting on top of their cars and still in their homes.

The flood waters have turned the town of Lyons into an island since it has wiped out all of the surrounding roads.

The overflowing creeks have been so strong in some parts that they have ripped right through roads and taken cars in with them.

Dillon Road in Broomfield, Colorado was washed out, causing three cars to crash into the raging creek below.

This is not your ordinary day. It is not your ordinary disaster,’ said Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle. ‘We’ve lost roads, we’ve lost bridges, we’ve lost homes, cars. And we’re only just now assessing the damage.’

Kari Bowen of the Weather Service agrees: ‘These constants rainstorms we typically don’t see (in eastern Colorado).’

Since the flooding has made transport impossible in most parts of Boulder, there have been widespread school and highway closures.

In Lyons, Colorado, the water has overflowed a sewage plant and the residents have been ordered to drink only boiled or bottled water.

By air and by land, the rescue of hundreds of Coloradoans stranded by epic mountain flooding was accelerating as food and water supplies ran low.

Meanwhile, thousands more were driven from their homes on the plains as debris-filled rivers became muddy seas inundating towns and farms miles from the Rockies.

For the first time since the harrowing mountain floods began Wednesday, Colorado got its first broad view of the devastation - and the reality of what is becoming a long-term disaster is setting in. The flooding has affected parts of a 4,500-square-mile area, almost the size of Connecticut.

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The surge: Flash-flooding continues in the Boulder-area of Colorado after three days of record-breaking rainfall

The surge: Flash-flooding continues in the Boulder-area of Colorado after three days of record-breaking rainfall

Overflowing: The heavy rains have impacted a large stretch of Colorado from Fort Collins near the northern border with Wyoming, all the way to Boulder, Denver and Colorado Springs more than 100 miles south

Overflowing: The heavy rains have impacted a large stretch of Colorado from Fort Collins near the northern border with Wyoming, all the way to Boulder, Denver and Colorado Springs more than 100 miles south

Geysers of sewage: A Sewer in Manitou Springs is overwhelmed by rainfall yesterday, gurgling the overflow of water

Geysers of sewage: A Sewer in Manitou Springs is overwhelmed by rainfall yesterday, gurgling the overflow of water

National Guard choppers were evacuating 295 people - plus pets - from the mountain hamlet of Jamestown, which was isolated by flooding that scoured the canyon the town sits in.

Mike Smith, incident commander at Boulder Municipal Airport, said helicopters would continue flying in and out late into the night.

The outlook for anyone who'd rather stay is weeks without power, cell phone service, water or sewer.
For those awaiting an airlift, Guardsmen dropped food, water and other supplies in Jamestown and other small towns in the winding, narrow canyons that dot the Rocky Mountain foothills.

Thousands of evacuees sought shelter in cities that were nearly surrounded by raging rivers spilling over their banks.

The dayslong rush of water from higher ground has killed four people and turned towns on Colorado's expansive eastern plains into muddy swamps.

Crews used inflatable boats to rescue families and pets from stranded farmhouses. Some evacuees on horseback had to be escorted to safe ground.

Boulder County officials said Friday night that the number of people unaccounted for had risen to 172, according to local television and newspaper reports.

Record-breaking: Over 12 inches of rain has fallen since September 1, which shatters the previous record set in the 1940s of 5.5 inches

Record-breaking: Over 12 inches of rain has fallen since September 1, which shatters the previous record set in the 1940s of 5.5 inches

View from above: Satellite imaging shows the storm system that swept over the eastern Colorado area on September 11, starting flash-floods that have killed three so far

View from above: Satellite imaging shows the storm system that swept over the eastern Colorado area on September 11, starting flash-floods that have killed three so far

Flee: The floods have displaced thousands of human residents, but also the wildlife in Colorado. Above, a deer jumps over a sidewalk in a flood-damaged area of Boulder

Flee: The floods have displaced thousands of human residents, but also the wildlife in Colorado. Above, a deer jumps over a sidewalk in a flood-damaged area of Boulder

Colorado farming communities evacuate as flood waters loom

The officials said earlier that the unaccounted for figure doesn't necessarily represent missing people.

Near Greeley, some 35 miles east of the foothills, broad swaths of farmland had become lakes, and hundreds of roads were closed or damaged by floodwaters. A 70-mile stretch of Interstate 25 was closed from Denver to the Wyoming line.

Rocky Mountain National Park closed Friday, its visitors forced to leave via the 60-mile Trail Ridge Road to the west side of the Rockies.

It will be weeks, if not months, before a semblance of normalcy returns to Lyons, a gateway community to the park. The town, surrounded by sandstone cliffs whose color was reflected in the raging St. Vrain River, consisted of six islands Friday as residents barbecued their food before it spoiled. Several people set up a tent camp on a hill.

Some 2,500 residents were being evacuated from Lyons. Two bridges that led into the area were washed away.

Aerial views of flood damage as death toll rises in Colorado

'Wall of water': Around midnight, officials said they were monitoring a wall of water headed toward the area of Emerson Gulch

'Wall of water': Around midnight, officials said they were monitoring a wall of water headed toward the area of Emerson Gulch

Churning: Boulder Creek is overflowing and threatening the city of Boulder, which it runs right through

Churning: Boulder Creek is overflowing and threatening the city of Boulder, which it runs right through

Swept away: The 30-foot wall of water was caused when a drainage gulch burst and swept up debris and vehicles in it's path

Swept away: The 30-foot wall of water was caused when a drainage gulch burst and swept up debris and vehicles in it's path

Won't stop: Rain continued to fall in Colorado today, only adding to the already dangerous flash-flooding

Won't stop: Rain continued to fall in Colorado today, only adding to the already dangerous flash-flooding

Stream: Water spills over a hillside home at the base of Boulder Canyon today

Stream: Water spills over a hillside home at the base of Boulder Canyon today

Emergency situation: The National Guard has been dispatched to help rescue people stranded in their homes

Emergency situation: The National Guard has been dispatched to help rescue people stranded in their homes

'There's so much water coming out of the canyon, it has to go somewhere, and unfortunately it's coming into the city,' said Ashlee Herring, spokeswoman for the Boulder office of Emergency Management.

Boulder Creek, which runs through the heart of the city, became a raging torrent that burst its banks and flooded adjacent parking lots and streets as warning sirens wailed. Officials in Boulder announced just before midnight Thursday that they were tracking a large 'wall of water, containing debris and vehicles' headed towards Emerson Gulch from the Fourmile burn area.

The Denver Post reported that the 30-foot wall of water was caused by a drainage gulch that burst and released a large amount of water which swept up debris and vehicles in it's path.

Other towns nestled along the Front Range of the Rockies north of Denver were also hard hit.

In Longmont about 14 miles northeast of Boulder, the St Vrain River jumped its banks, cascading across main thoroughfares and making travel across the city impossible overnight.

Exploring: Umbrella-toting residents take pictures of the damage the flooding had on a street in Boulder on Friday

Exploring: Umbrella-toting residents take pictures of the damage the flooding had on a street in Boulder on Friday

Home invasion: A couple returns to find their home Friday to find it water-damaged from the previous days floods

Home invasion: A couple returns to find their home Friday to find it water-damaged from the previous days floods

Survivor: So far, officials have announced three deaths related to the flooding. Above, a man is rescued by emergency workers after he spent the night trapped on high ground above his home

Survivor: So far, officials have announced three deaths related to the flooding. Above, a man is rescued by emergency workers after he spent the night trapped on high ground above his home

Battling the storm: A man in Boulder attempts to make a mud barrier to protect his house from the flooding

Battling the storm: A man in Boulder attempts to make a mud barrier to protect his house from the flooding

Boots are no use: Homeowner Hannah Hinseth returns to her home to survey the damage caused by the severe flooding

Boots are no use: Homeowner Hannah Hinseth returns to her home to survey the damage caused by the severe flooding

Street sweepers: Residents shovel debris to form a protective dike in a neighborhood of Boulder

Street sweepers: Residents shovel debris to form a protective dike in a neighborhood of Boulder

'Our city is completely divided,' by the floodwaters, assistant city manager Shawn Lewis told Reuters.

Lewis said 7,000 households were under mandatory evacuation orders. The city opened two emergency shelters for displaced residents.

President Barack Obama approved a federal disaster assistance request, which will release funds to help with emergency protection, Governor John Hickenlooper's office said late on Thursday.

National Guard troops were dispatched with emergency supplies to the remote town of Lyons, north of Boulder, which was virtually cut off from surrounding areas when floodwaters washed out U.S. Route 36, county officials said.

Cut-off: Towns like Magnolia, above, have been completely shut off after the raging waters washed out roads

Cut-off: Towns like Magnolia, above, have been completely shut off after the raging waters washed out roads

Waiting for rescue: All road access to the town of Lyons, Colorado was cut-off and National Guard troops have been dispatched to bring residents emergency supplies. Above a wiped out road near the base of Boulder Canyon

Waiting for rescue: All road access to the town of Lyons, Colorado was cut-off and National Guard troops have been dispatched to bring residents emergency supplies. Above a wiped out road near the base of Boulder Canyon

Baby's first flood: A young family take a walk on Friday to survey the damage in their Boulder neighborhood

Baby's first flood: A young family take a walk on Friday to survey the damage in their Boulder neighborhood

A river runs through it: Lefthand Creek runs down a neighborhood street in Longmont, Colorado Friday

A river runs through it: Lefthand Creek runs down a neighborhood street in Longmont, Colorado Friday

Clean-up: Today, a farmer is seen clearing debris from railroad tracks in Longmont, Colorado

Clean-up: Today, a farmer is seen clearing debris from railroad tracks in Longmont, Colorado

Back at last: Evelyn Mortiz carries her luggage barefoot back home after spending the night with friends during the mandatory evacuation in her area

Back at last: Evelyn Mortiz carries her luggage barefoot back home after spending the night with friends during the mandatory evacuation in her area

A dozen major roads in northeastern Colorado remained shut with significant damage from flooding, mudslides, rockfalls and other debris, the Colorado Department of Transportation said late on Thursday.

Heavy summer rains are not unusual for Colorado, but the intensity and duration of the downpour that began on Monday night was unprecedented.

The National Weather Service said at least 12.3 inches of rain have fallen on Boulder since September 1, smashing a 73-year-old record of 5.5 inches for the month.

Cleaning house: Lucas Calderon-Griek uses a broom to sweep out the water from his home in Upland

Cleaning house: Lucas Calderon-Griek uses a broom to sweep out the water from his home in Upland

Aid: Colorado National Guardsmen help relocate a family trapped at their heavily-flooded home

Aid: Colorado National Guardsmen help relocate a family trapped at their heavily-flooded home

Record-breaking: The former record for rainfall during the month of September was 5.5 inches. That's been shattered already with the National Weather Service saying that 12.3 inches have fallen

Record-breaking: The former record for rainfall during the month of September was 5.5 inches. That's been shattered already with the National Weather Service saying that 12.3 inches have fallen

Wreckage: A man cleans up Canon Avenue after a flash flood burst a manhole and sent water rushing down the streets of Manitou

Wreckage: A man cleans up Canon Avenue after a flash flood burst a manhole and sent water rushing down the streets of Manitou

Pop-up pool: A couple play in the flooded Utah Park in Aurora, Colorado yesterday

Pop-up pool: A couple play in the flooded Utah Park in Aurora, Colorado yesterday

Back to work: Men at Namaste Solar are pictured clearing debris off of their work site today in Boulder

Back to work: Men at Namaste Solar are pictured clearing debris off of their work site today in Boulder

One body was found in a collapsed building near Jamestown, an evacuated enclave north of Boulder.

A couple were swept away in floodwaters after stopping their car northwest of the city. The man's body was recovered but the woman was missing and feared dead, said Commander Heidi Prentup of the Boulder County Sheriff's Office.

The body of a third confirmed fatality, a 54-year-old man, was found by police on flood-watch patrols in a Colorado Springs creek, about 100 miles to the south, officials said.

On Friday, a woman who had been swept away was found dead near Boulder, raising the death toll to four.

Nearly 150 people were killed near Boulder in 1976 by a flash flood along the Big Thompson Canyon.

Out of control: The heavy rainfalls have turned Boulder Creek into a raging river with enough power to wash out roads

Out of control: The heavy rainfalls have turned Boulder Creek into a raging river with enough power to wash out roads

Ominous: Clouds cover the Denver skyline early this morning. It continues to rain in the area

Ominous: Clouds cover the Denver skyline early this morning. It continues to rain in the area

Up in the air: A Rocky Mountain Rescue Team prepares to depart in a National Guard piloted helicopter

Up in the air: A Rocky Mountain Rescue Team prepares to depart in a National Guard piloted helicopter

Swamped: A National Guard vehicle drives through a flooded area in Boulder County Thursday as rain continued to pour

Swamped: A National Guard vehicle drives through a flooded area in Boulder County Thursday as rain continued to pour

Pup saved! This family's poodle couldn't be left behind

Pup saved! This family's poodle couldn't be left behind

Distractions: Carolyn Hornung, distracted by her phone, casually stands in flowing water outside her house in Boulder, Colorado Friday

Distractions: Carolyn Hornung, distracted by her phone, casually stands in flowing water outside her house in Boulder, Colorado Friday

A woman who was reported missing after a mudslide and flash flood, that killed a 53-year-old driver and knocked down houses, has been found safe, it emerged today.

Six homes were destroyed and about 30 others were damaged when the mudslide and flash flooding hit Manitou Spring after heavy rain fell in an area destroyed by wildfire last year.

Many people were forced to cling to trees and scramble up cliffs by the sides of roads to escape the torrent of mud and silt.

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Trail of destruction: A pick up truck is crushed under boulders and trees uprooted by the flood

Trail of destruction: A pick up truck is crushed under boulders and trees uprooted by the flood

Tide of debris: Rubble and branches were swept into yards and houses

Tide of debris: Rubble and branches were swept into yards and houses

As heavy rain continued to fall on the small city, residents and business owners did their best to salvage belongings and clear up the damage, while wrecked cars were towed from the streets and highway.

Victim: John Collins was found buried under mud

Victim: John Collins was found buried under mud

The area has become more vulnerable to flash floods after damage caused by wildfires last year left the scorched soil less able to absorb water.

'This is the first year of the burn scar. We've got nine more years of this,' Colorado Springs fire lieutenant Steve Schopper said.

When the storm hit on Friday it swept mud, boulders and other debris into Manitou Springs, which has a population of about 5,000 people.

Initial reports said two people had been killed but one of them, a woman who asked not to be identified, was later found safe.

Another woman has revealed details of her dramatic escape, after her rental home was swept away by a 4ft wall of mud and floodwater.

'I lost everything, but I survived it. I'm so happy I survived,' Laura Hunter said.

Ms Hunter was at home when water started coming in her living room window. She said she went to the front door thinking she would be able to head to higher ground, but was swept away.

The 49-year-old, who broke her leg in the ordeal, managed to grab hold of a tree and then crawl to a ridge where neighbors rescued her.

My Colorado flash flood ordeal

Forceful: The 4ft wall of mud and floodwater wrecked cars and homes when it hit

Forceful: The 4ft wall of mud and floodwater wrecked cars and homes when it hit

Rescued: Laura Hunter was pulled to safety after being trapped by the floodwater, which swept away her home

Rescued: Laura Hunter was pulled to safety after being trapped by the floodwater, which swept away her home

Clean up: Volunteers help clear mud from a cafe in Manitou Springs

Clean up: Volunteers help clear mud from a cafe in Manitou Springs

Her rented home was washed away, but a firefighter returned her ID and bank cards and a friend salvaged her bicycle.

'My long-term goals are just to be really grateful for my life, and I want to form really healthy relationships. That's the most important thing to me now,' she told reporters at Penrose Hospital, Colorado Springs. The mudslides claimed the life of one victim. John Collins, 53, was killed when the mudslide hit Highway 24. John Collins, of Teller County, was found buried under debris next to his car, El Paso police said.

It was not clear if Mr Collins, who had been driving home from work, had tried to flee on foot or whether the force of the mudslide pushed him from his car.

Help: A boy helps volunteers as they ruined stock from shops and businesses

Help: A boy helps volunteers as they ruined stock from shops and businesses

Blocked: Banks of silt and vegetation are cleared from the roads

Blocked: Banks of silt and vegetation are cleared from the roads

Unstable: A firefighter checks a mud-spattered house that was wrecked in the flood

Unstable: A firefighter checks a mud-spattered house that was wrecked in the flood

Wrecked: Pastor Dan Parton walks through the mud-filled basement of the Timberline Baptist Church

Wrecked: Pastor Dan Parton walks through the mud-filled basement of the Timberline Baptist Church

Damage: Parts of a road were washed away, leaving the safety barrier hanging perilously over a sheer drop

Damage: Parts of a road were washed away, leaving the safety barrier hanging perilously over a sheer drop

Clean up: Volunteers and construction workers try to clear the silt and debris as more heavy rain falls

Clean up: Volunteers and construction workers try to clear the silt and debris as more heavy rain falls

Friends remembered him as a gentle man who enjoyed gardening and dressing as Santa at Christmas.

'It was always the highlight of my children's Christmas to be able to sit on his lap,' family friend Jessica Russ-Medovich told the Gazette. 'It was something that they will never forget.'

As more heavy rain fell yesterday, residents tried to salvage their belongings and secure their homes from further damage.

Many have been forced to clean up and rebuild their homes before, according to CBS Denver, and some said they were not sure if they could cope with doing it again.

Swarms of volunteers have arrived to help residents clear away the banks of silt left in homes and businesses.

However, a woman who lives close to the Timberline Baptist Church said looters were seen rifling through items volunteers had salvaged from the church and left to clean to the parking lot.

'They were going through the stuff, just seeing what they could get,' the woman told CBS Denver.

At least 20 cars were swept away on Friday. Kathryn Presnal, of Cascade, recounted how she ran from her car and scrambled up a cliff by the road, pulling another driver up with her, as the flood hit.

Danger: A woman runs for cover as heavy rain continues to fall, bring fears of more flash floods

Danger: A woman runs for cover as heavy rain continues to fall, bring fears of more flash floods

Prepared: Residents stack sandbags along the streets to try to prevent further flooding

Prepared: Residents stack sandbags along the streets to try to prevent further flooding

Salvage: Business owners stack up items they have managed to pull out of their ruined shops

Salvage: Business owners stack up items they have managed to pull out of their ruined shops

Heartbreaking: Neighbors comfort each other after the floods, which are likely to hit again because of wildfire damage

Heartbreaking: Neighbors comfort each other after the floods, which are likely to hit again because of wildfire damage

Community spirit: Residents help clear out mud from businesses and homes

Community spirit: Residents help clear out mud from businesses and homes

'I grabbed her hand and pulled her up,' the Colorado Springs school principal said. 'We stood there and watched our cars float away.'

City officials are trying to protect the area from further flood damage, including building 11 catch basins.

'With the amount of rain that we received Friday, nothing that we could have done could have prevented the kind of flooding we had,' Dave Hunting, a spokesman for the city government said. 'Just Mother Nature doing her thing.'

 

 

 

  • Almost 100 children and teachers left stranded by flash flooding near to Boulder, Colorado, rescued in dramatic airlift
  • Heavy rains that started Wednesday sparked flash-flooding from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs
  • Residents urged to leave now or risk being stranded for weeks without water or power
  • The National Weather service says there has been over 12 inches of rainfall since September 1, breaking the 73-year-old record for the month
  • Surging floodwaters in Boulder led to the evacuation of about 4,000 residents late Thursday
  • President Obama has approved a federal disaster assistance request for the area and National Guard have been dispatched

Almost 100 school school children and teachers left stranded for two days by the massive flooding that hit around Boulder, Colorado were airlifted to safety on Saturday as the number of presumed dead rose to six - with over 700 more missing.

The students from Fireside Elementary School in Louisville, Colorado - around 10 miles to the southeast of Boulder - were trapped when flood-waters burst over roads at an outdoor education center in Jamestown.

The 85 fifth graders and 14 adults were lifted from the mountainside by helicopter and taken to Boulder Municipal Airport where they were loaded onto buses and reunited with their emotional parents at Fireside Elementary on Saturday evening.

Safe: Bonnie Dannelly hugs her daughter Makayla after she got off the bus at Fireside Elementary in Louisville, on Saturday. Makayla Dannelly was one of over 80 Fireside 5th graders who were trapped above Jamestown at Camp Cal-Wood

Safe: Bonnie Dannelly hugs her daughter Makayla after she got off the bus at Fireside Elementary in Louisville, on Saturday. Makayla Dannelly was one of over 80 Fireside 5th graders who were trapped above Jamestown at Camp Cal-Wood

Military Operation: A handout aerial image released by the US Army on 15 September 2013 shows 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, soldiers evacuating fifth-grade students from Firewood Elementary

Military Operation: A handout aerial image released by the US Army on 15 September 2013 shows 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, soldiers evacuating fifth-grade students from Firewood Elementary

'All the kids are down from the mountains and either delivered here or en route,' said Briggs Gamblin, a spokesman for the Boulder Valley School District.

Despite being trapped by the rising flood-waters, the children ate tacos with all the fixings for dinner on Friday evening and were kept occupied by a dance party.

'Last night around 5 o'clock we got a request from the National Guard for assistance,' said Major Earl Brown, deputy public affairs officer for the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson.

In total, seven helicopters, including four Blackhawks, were used to airlift the children and adults out of the area.

Pulled to Safety: The 4th Combat Aviation Brigade was able to assist state and local emergency response efforts under the Immediate Response Authority

Pulled to Safety: The 4th Combat Aviation Brigade was able to assist state and local emergency response efforts under the Immediate Response Authority

Rescued: Families cheer as a bus carrying several Fireside Elementary 5th graders who were trapped at Camp-Calwood arrive to school in Louisville, Colorado on September 14, 2013

Rescued: Families cheer as a bus carrying several Fireside Elementary 5th graders who were trapped at Camp-Calwood arrive to school in Louisville, Colorado on September 14, 2013

'We're just a part of a whole team effort to help those folks out there in Boulder County,' said Brown to NBC News.

As rain continued to fall on Sunday in Colorado, efforts to search for the missing were hampered as the National Guard grounded all helicopters in the state.

'It's unlikely at this point that we'll be able to reach those who are stranded in the hard-to-reach areas,' said Kim Kobel, a spokesperson for Boulder's Office of Emergency Management to CNN.

Governor John Hickenlooper, told CNN on Sunday morning that he hopes many of the missing are simply out of reach of communications and have 'already gotten out or are staying with friends.'

'But,' he added, 'we're still bracing. I mean, there are many, many homes that have been destroyed.'

An aerial view of mobile homes submerged in flood waters along the South Platte River near Greenley, Colorado September 14, 2013

An aerial view of mobile homes submerged in flood waters along the South Platte River near Greenley, Colorado September 14, 2013

A section of highway is washed out by flooding along the South Platte River in Weld County, Colorado near Greeley, Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013

A section of highway is washed out by flooding along the South Platte River in Weld County, Colorado near Greeley, Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013

Lucky: Jon Tarkington with his daughter Evy, 1, look over a diversion dam built in the intersection of 7th Street and University Ave on University Hill in Boulder, Colorado on Saturday

Lucky: Jon Tarkington with his daughter Evy, 1, look over a diversion dam built in the intersection of 7th Street and University Ave on University Hill in Boulder, Colorado on Saturday

Result: A farm house is surrounded by water from flooding on the South Platte River near Greeley, Colo., on Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013

Result: A farm house is surrounded by water from flooding on the South Platte River near Greeley, Colo., on Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013

Crossroads: As heavy rains return after somewhat abating for two days, a field fills with water from overflowing creeks nearby, outside Longmont, Colorado on Sunday Sept. 15, 2013

Crossroads: As heavy rains return after somewhat abating for two days, a field fills with water from overflowing creeks nearby, outside Longmont, Colorado on Sunday Sept. 15, 2013

Frantic: Dean Beacom works to save his home from a flash flood near 19th Street and Upland Avenue, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013 as

Frantic: Dean Beacom works to save his home from a flash flood near 19th Street and Upland Avenue, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013 as Steve Gabel (left) and Patrick Muir move a soaked couch out from Muir's apartment

Frantic: Dean Beacom works to save his home from a flash flood near 19th Street and Upland Avenue, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013 as Steve Gabel (left) and Patrick Muir move a soaked couch out from Muir's apartment

Justin Slyter with Par Electrical Contractors looks over fallen power poles in a office complex on Arapahoe Avenue next to Eben G Fine Park in Boulder on Saturday Sept, 14, 2013

Justin Slyter with Par Electrical Contractors looks over fallen power poles in a office complex on Arapahoe Avenue next to Eben G Fine Park in Boulder on Saturday Sept, 14, 2013

Sheriff Justin Smith visited areas 'somewhat cut off from the rest of the world,' he said.

Smith cautioned that the death toll from the disaster would almost certainly rise and that it may already be as high as six.

The four confirmed deaths so far include those of a man and a woman, both 19, who were swept away after leaving their car Thursday in Boulder County.

Another person was found in a collapsed home in Jamestown and rescuers found a body on a roadway in Colorado Springs.

The fourth person who has been confirmed as a victim of the flooding is a 60-year-old woman who was witnessed being swept away by water that had leveled her home.

Damage: A car lies on its side in a mud slide on Saturday, Sept. 14, on Olde Stage Road in Boulder, Colo. Rescuers rushed by land and by air Saturday to evacuate Coloradoans stranded by epic mountain flooding

Damage: A car lies on its side in a mud slide on Saturday, Sept. 14, on Olde Stage Road in Boulder, Colo. Rescuers rushed by land and by air Saturday to evacuate Coloradoans stranded by epic mountain flooding

Swept away: A large chunk of road near Greenley, Colorado, has been demolished by the flood

Swept away: A large chunk of road near Greenley, Colorado, has been demolished by the flood

Torn: Evan Russack with his son Trevor, 6, look over Pennsylvania Ave on University Hill which was cut in two by flooding on Saturday Sept, 14, 2013

Torn: Evan Russack with his son Trevor, 6, look over Pennsylvania Ave on University Hill which was cut in two by flooding on Saturday Sept, 14, 2013

Collapsed: Lefthand Canyon Road near the intersection of Olde Stage Road in Boulder, Colo., on Saturday, Sept. 14, in Boulder. Rescuers rushed by land and by air Saturday to evacuate Coloradoans stranded by epic mountain flooding

Collapsed: Lefthand Canyon Road near the intersection of Olde Stage Road in Boulder, Colo., on Saturday, Sept. 14, in Boulder. Rescuers rushed by land and by air Saturday to evacuate Coloradoans stranded by epic mountain flooding

To date, four people are thought to have died as a result of the flood-waters which have swept through Boulder after days of rain.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said that it is still tracking flood-waters on Saturday and the Boulder Office of Emergency Management told residents on Twitter not to drive through water.

'We are assuming there may be further loss of life and injuries,' Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said on Saturday.

'Given the devastation on some of those canyons, it's definitely a high probability.'

Colorado residents are bracing themselves for further flooding and devastation, with more storms due to hit on Sunday.

Relief: Brian Montgomery helps his mother Barbara Yanari to clean up the mud in her flooded basement on Saturday, Sept. 14, on Olde Stage Road in Boulder, Colorado

Relief: Brian Montgomery helps his mother Barbara Yanari to clean up the mud in her flooded basement on Saturday, Sept. 14, on Olde Stage Road in Boulder, Colorado

Escape: Anita and Art Powner evacuate with their dogs Zypher and Lexus on Saturday, Sept. 14, on Olde Stage Road in Boulder. Rescuers rushed by land and by air Saturday to evacuate Coloradoans stranded

Escape: Anita and Art Powner evacuate with their dogs Zypher and Lexus on Saturday, Sept. 14, on Olde Stage Road in Boulder. Rescuers rushed by land and by air Saturday to evacuate Coloradoans stranded

More than 500 people are missing and at least four people have died, with another victim believed to be dead, after flash floods.

Many residents are still stranded in their homes as rescue workers try to reach them. Boulder county officials fear rescue attempts will be hampered by the extra 4in of rain due on Sunday.

Rescue teams are warning people in some Colorado towns isolated by devastating flooding against remaining there, telling them that they could face weeks without basic supplies, including running water and electricity.

Helicopters and truck convoys of the National Guard carried the admonition Saturday into paralyzed canyon communities where thousands of stranded residents were eager to escape the Rocky Mountain foothills. But not everybody was willing to go. Dozens of people in hard hit Jamestown wanted to stay to watch over their homes.

Authorities made clear that residents who chose not to leave might not get another chance for a while. Rescuers won't go back for people who insist on staying, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said.

'We're not trying to force anyone from their home. We're not trying to be forceful, but we're trying to be very factual and definitive about the consequences of their decision, and we hope that they will come down,' Pelle said.

Clearing weather offers relief in flood-hit Colorado

Aerial: Photographs shows the damage and flooding to infrastructure destroyed by heavy rains, with some areas receiving as much as 18 inches in a 24-hour period, in Boulder, Colorado

Aerial: Photographs shows the damage and flooding to infrastructure destroyed by heavy rains, with some areas receiving as much as 18 inches in a 24-hour period, in Boulder, Colorado

Four people have been confirmed dead since the harrowing floods began Wednesday

Four people have been confirmed dead since the harrowing floods began Wednesday

Special education teacher Brian Shultz, 38, was torn about leaving his Jamestown home.

'I was thinking about staying. I could have lasted at least a year. I have a lot of training in wilderness survival,' he said, adding that he probably had enough beer to last the whole time.

As he sat outside a makeshift shelter at a high school, Shultz floated the idea of walking back into the funky mountain town.

'If we hike back, I would stay there and just live. I'd rather be at our own house than staying at some other people's houses,' he said.

His wife, Meagan Harrington, gave him a wry smile. About 10 of their neighbors declined to evacuate, she said.

'They said they wouldn't force you, but it was strongly encouraged,' she said.

Shultz teared up behind his sunglasses as he compared his situation to that of his neighbors.
Eroded: A handout aerial image released by the US Army on 15 September 2013 shows damage and flooding to infrastructure destroyed by heavy rains, with some areas receiving as much as 18 inches in a 24-hour period

Eroded: A handout aerial image released by the US Army on 15 September 2013 shows damage and flooding to infrastructure destroyed by heavy rains, with some areas receiving as much as 18 inches in a 24-hour period

'At least all of our stuff's there and will be there when we get back. The people right by the river, their houses were washed away. Other people thought their houses were going to be OK, and then they started to go. It's just really devastating.'

Across the foothills, rescuers made progress against the floodwaters. But they were still unable to go up many narrow canyon roads that were either underwater or washed out.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama signed a disaster declaration and ordered federal aid for Colorado. The White House said in a statement Saturday night that the action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in Boulder County. The government said that other counties could be added later.

Te city of Longmont ordered a curfew from 10 p.m. Saturday until 6 a.m. Sunday in flood zones and evacuation areas, urging residents to remain indoors.

On Saturday, the surge of water reached the plains east of the mountains, cutting off more communities and diverting some rescue operations.

Four people have been confirmed dead since the harrowing floods began Wednesday. And hundreds of others have not been heard from in the flood zone, which has grown to cover portions of an area nearly the size of Connecticut.

Destroyed: Cars lie wrecked by raging flood-waters near to Boulder, Colorado after days of heavy rain in the state

Destroyed: Cars lie wrecked by raging flood-waters near to Boulder, Colorado after days of heavy rain in the state

Some of those who are unaccounted for may be stranded or injured. Others might have gotten out but not yet contacted friends and relatives, officials said.

Police expected to find more bodies as the full scope of damage emerges.

A woman was missing and presumed dead after witnesses saw floodwaters from the Big Thompson River destroy her home in the Cedar Cove area, Larimer County sheriff's spokesman John Schulz said.

'I expect that we're going to continue to receive reports of confirmed missing and confirmed fatalities throughout the next several days,' he said.

Two fatalities were identified by the Boulder County coroner Saturday as Wesley Quinlan and Wiyanna Nelson, both 19.

Authorities believe the couple died when they were swept away after driving into floodwaters and then leaving their vehicle. Their cause of death is under investigation.

The military put more troops on the ground and helicopters in the air to aid in the search-and-rescue effort.

By Saturday night, 1,750 people and 300 pets had been evacuated from Boulder and Larimer County, National Guard Lt. James Goff said.

The airlifts will continue Sunday with helicopter crews expanding their searches east to include Longmont, Fort Collins and Weld County.

It was not clear how many people were still stranded.

Demolished: The walls of this home have been washed away on South Platte River

Demolished: The walls of this home have been washed away on South Platte River

A helicopter taking Gov. John Hickenlooper on a tour of the flooded areas even got in the act, stopping twice to pick up six stranded people and their two pets. Terry Kishiyama's son flagged down a helicopter with his shirt after a three-day wait for rescue from a neighbor's house on higher ground.

'You could hear the choppers for miles and miles, but I didn't know if they were evacuating people. You see a chopper going down behind a ridge, and you have no clue,' Kishiyama said.

In addition to his son's efforts, Kishiyama said his wife shouted at the chopper, 'We have babies!'

More than 85 fifth-graders from Louisville were greeted by their parents and friends Saturday after they were rescued from an outdoor education center near Jamestown.

Above Larimer County, rescue crews airlifted 475 people to safety and planned to resume helicopter searches on Sunday, weather permitting.

Rain was expected to start up again in the mountains and foothills, with between a half-inch and 2 inches forecast to fall overnight, according to the National Weather Service.

Crews also used inflatable boats to pick up families and pets from farmhouses on Saturday. Some evacuees on horseback had to be escorted to safe ground.

Near Greeley, 35 miles east of the foothills, broad swaths of farmland had become lakes, and the raging South Platte and Poudre rivers surrounded more homes.

In one Boulder neighborhood, residents turned back city crews and machinery that arrived to remove the makeshift berms and sand-filled trash bags protecting their homes. University of Colorado students helped homeowners improvise a way to divert the rising water from Gregory Creek.

'The residents know better than anybody else how the water flows through the neighborhood,' said Colleen Scanlan Lyons.

In communities where floodwaters began receding, homeowners had a chance to assess damage.

In Laporte, Wendy Clark surveyed soggy carpets and furniture that got damaged by the Poudre River.

'This mud smells disgusting,' she said. 'I don't know how long that's going to be around.'

Colorado residents wade through flooded streets

Wrecked: Only the roof of a Jamestown house remains after flash floods ripped through the town

Wrecked: Only the roof of a Jamestown house remains after flash floods ripped through the town

Cut off: A farm house is completely surrounded by rising water

Cut off: A farm house is completely surrounded by rising water

Evacuation: Residents have been told if they don't leave they risk being cut off for two weeks

Evacuation: Residents have been told if they don't leave they risk being cut off for two weeks

Over 85 fifth-graders airlifted from Colorado flooding areas

Authorities who still haven't reached all the stranded victims of floods in northeastern Colorado are bracing for a new round of storms on Sunday.

Already it is estimated that it will cost $150 million to repair more than 100 miles of road and at least 20 bridges that have been washed away.

County transportation director George Gerstle told CNN the repair bill is likely to be 10 to 15 the annual budget.

A sheriff's office spokesman said hundreds of people were unaccounted for, but added that some residents may have reached safety but not been able to contact relatives to tell them.

More...

Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said authorities had to be 'realistic' about the chances that the death toll will rise.

With the rain never seeming to end and the waters continuing to rise, more than 4,000 people near Boulder, Colorado, have been evacuated as nearby Milliken has been surrounded by water and turned into an island, according to reports.

The reality of what is becoming a long-term disaster is setting in, flooding has affected parts of a 4,500-square-mile area almost the size of Connecticut.

An aerial view of vehicles submerged in flood waters along the South Platte River near Greenley, Colorado

An aerial view of vehicles submerged in flood waters along the South Platte River near Greenley, Colorado

Underwater: The small farming town of Milliken, CO, has been surrounded by waters that first turned it into an island, but are now inundating homes

Underwater: The small farming town of Milliken, CO, has been surrounded by waters that first turned it into an island, but are now inundating homes

Runaway homes: Trailer homes are floating off their foundations as rushing waters sweep them away

Runaway homes: Trailer homes are floating off their foundations as rushing waters sweep them away

Not just homes: Farms and farm equipment are also being destroyed by the treacherous waters

Not just homes: Farms and farm equipment are also being destroyed by the treacherous waters

Unprecedented: The 12 inches of rain recorded since Sept 1 has set an all-time record for the month, and even more is on the way

Unprecedented: The 12 inches of rain recorded since Sept 1 has set an all-time record for the month, and even more is on the way

In the most recent developments, people are stranded in Milliken after the main road out of town was washed away by raging floodwaters, according to CBS Denver. As the devastating rapids rise, they wash away more of the road, and flood ever closer to even more homes.

'The fire department said Milliken is an island but I found a way out,' Jorge Garza told the station.

A CBS Denver helicopter flying over the town spotted a family of three and their dog being rescued from menacing waters via a motorized raft. '[Milliken] has turned into a lake with campers, fields and cars submerged,' the station further reported.

172 people are unaccounted for, Boulder County officials told KDVR.

Sludge: Brian Montgomery wades through thick mud in the basement of his mother's home

Sludge: Brian Montgomery wades through thick mud in the basement of his mother's home

Deserted: Residents are being taken to evacuation centers amid reports of more storms

Deserted: Residents are being taken to evacuation centers amid reports of more storms

Access: Heavy equipment is used to try to clear debris from a road covered in 20ft banks of mud

Access: Heavy equipment is used to try to clear debris from a road covered in 20ft banks of mud

Damage: An estimated $150 million of repair work will be needed to fix roads and bridges that have been washed away

Damage: An estimated $150 million of repair work will be needed to fix roads and bridges that have been washed away

As rescuers broke through to flood-ravaged Colorado towns, they issued a stern warning Saturday to anyone thinking of staying behind: Leave now or be prepared to endure weeks without electricity, running water and basic supplies.

Authorities made clear that residents who chose not to leave might not get another chance for a while.

'We're not trying to force anyone from their home. We're not trying to be forceful, but we're trying to be very factual and definitive about the consequences of their decision, and we hope that they will come down,' Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said.

Cut off: A farm house has been turned into an island as flood water rises near Greenley, Colorado

Cut off: A farm house has been turned into an island as flood water rises near Greenley, Colorado

By land: The Army National Guard has brought in heavy equipment meant to assist in the rescue of trapped residents

By land: The Army National Guard has brought in heavy equipment meant to assist in the rescue of trapped residents

Or by sea: Officials are also using motorboats to help save trapped people

Or by sea: Officials are also using motorboats to help save trapped people

Shocked: Residents are shell-shocked, many have lost everything, as a result of the historic floods

Shocked: Residents are shell-shocked, many have lost everything, as a result of the historic floods

Waterlogged: Cattle brave the fierce waters on higher ground as everything around them is swept away

Waterlogged: Cattle brave the fierce waters on higher ground as everything around them is swept away

Special education teacher Brian Shultz, 38, was torn about leaving his Jamestown home.

'I was thinking about staying. I could have lasted at least a year. I have a lot of training in wilderness survival,' he said, adding that he probably had enough beer to last the whole time.

Another one to two inches of rain is expected to fall between Saturday night and Sunday, which will only add to the problems.

National Guard choppers have been evacuating the Jamestown, of about 295 people - plus pets - after the mountain hamlet became isolated by flooding.

Mike Smith, incident commander at Boulder Municipal Airport, said helicopters would continue flying in and out late into the night.

The outlook for anyone who'd rather stay is weeks without power, cell phone service, water or sewer.
For those awaiting an airlift, Guardsmen dropped food, water and other supplies in Jamestown and other small towns in the winding, narrow canyons that dot the Rocky Mountain foothills.

Swamped: A railway track in Longmont is lost under floodwater

Swamped: A railway track in Longmont is lost under floodwater

Ruined: Trailer homes have been washed away in the water

Ruined: Trailer homes have been washed away in the water

The surge: Flash-flooding continues in the Boulder-area of Colorado after three days of record-breaking rainfall

The surge: Flash-flooding continues in the Boulder-area of Colorado after three days of record-breaking rainfall

Overflowing: The heavy rains have impacted a large stretch of Colorado from Fort Collins near the northern border with Wyoming, all the way to Boulder, Denver and Colorado Springs more than 100 miles south

Overflowing: The heavy rains have impacted a large stretch of Colorado from Fort Collins near the northern border with Wyoming, all the way to Boulder, Denver and Colorado Springs more than 100 miles south

Geysers of sewage: A Sewer in Manitou Springs is overwhelmed by rainfall yesterday, gurgling the overflow of water

Geysers of sewage: A Sewer in Manitou Springs is overwhelmed by rainfall yesterday, gurgling the overflow of water

Thousands of evacuees sought shelter in cities that were nearly surrounded by raging rivers spilling over their banks.

The dayslong rush of water from higher ground has killed four people and turned towns on Colorado's expansive eastern plains into muddy swamps.

Crews used inflatable boats to rescue families and pets from stranded farmhouses. Some evacuees on horseback had to be escorted to safe ground.

Boulder County officials said Friday night that the number of people unaccounted for had risen to 172, according to local television and newspaper reports.

'I expect that we're going to continue to receive reports of confirmed missing and confirmed fatalities throughout the next several days,' Larimer County sheriff's spokesman John Schulz said.

Record-breaking: Over 12 inches of rain has fallen since September 1, which shatters the previous record set in the 1940s of 5.5 inches

Record-breaking: Over 12 inches of rain has fallen since September 1, which shatters the previous record set in the 1940s of 5.5 inches

View from above: Satellite imaging shows the storm system that swept over the eastern Colorado area on September 11, starting flash-floods that have killed three so far

View from above: Satellite imaging shows the storm system that swept over the eastern Colorado area on September 11, starting flash-floods that have killed three so far

Flee: The floods have displaced thousands of human residents, but also the wildlife in Colorado. Above, a deer jumps over a sidewalk in a flood-damaged area of Boulder

Flee: The floods have displaced thousands of human residents, but also the wildlife in Colorado. Above, a deer jumps over a sidewalk in a flood-damaged area of Boulder

The officials said earlier that the unaccounted for figure doesn't necessarily represent missing people.

Near Greeley, some 35 miles east of the foothills, broad swaths of farmland had become lakes, and hundreds of roads were closed or damaged by floodwaters. A 70-mile stretch of Interstate 25 was closed from Denver to the Wyoming line.

Rocky Mountain National Park closed Friday, its visitors forced to leave via the 60-mile Trail Ridge Road to the west side of the Rockies.

It will be weeks, if not months, before a semblance of normalcy returns to Lyons, a gateway community to the park. The town, surrounded by sandstone cliffs whose color was reflected in the raging St. Vrain River, consisted of six islands Friday as residents barbecued their food before it spoiled. Several people set up a tent camp on a hill.

Some 2,500 residents were being evacuated from Lyons. Two bridges that led into the area were washed away.

Aerial views of flood damage as death toll rises in Colorado

'Wall of water': Around midnight, officials said they were monitoring a wall of water headed toward the area of Emerson Gulch

'Wall of water': Around midnight, officials said they were monitoring a wall of water headed toward the area of Emerson Gulch

Churning: Boulder Creek is overflowing and threatening the city of Boulder, which it runs right through

Churning: Boulder Creek is overflowing and threatening the city of Boulder, which it runs right through

Swept away: The 30-foot wall of water was caused when a drainage gulch burst and swept up debris and vehicles in it's path

Swept away: The 30-foot wall of water was caused when a drainage gulch burst and swept up debris and vehicles in it's path

Won't stop: Rain continued to fall in Colorado today, only adding to the already dangerous flash-flooding

Won't stop: Rain continued to fall in Colorado today, only adding to the already dangerous flash-flooding

Stream: Water spills over a hillside home at the base of Boulder Canyon today

Stream: Water spills over a hillside home at the base of Boulder Canyon today

Emergency situation: The National Guard has been dispatched to help rescue people stranded in their homes

Emergency situation: The National Guard has been dispatched to help rescue people stranded in their homes

'There's so much water coming out of the canyon, it has to go somewhere, and unfortunately it's coming into the city,' said Ashlee Herring, spokeswoman for the Boulder office of Emergency Management.

Boulder Creek, which runs through the heart of the city, became a raging torrent that burst its banks and flooded adjacent parking lots and streets as warning sirens wailed.

Officials in Boulder announced just before midnight Thursday that they were tracking a large 'wall of water, containing debris and vehicles' headed towards Emerson Gulch from the Fourmile burn area.

The Denver Post reported that the 30-foot wall of water was caused by a drainage gulch that burst and released a large amount of water which swept up debris and vehicles in it's path.

Other towns nestled along the Front Range of the Rockies north of Denver were also hard hit.

In Longmont about 14 miles northeast of Boulder, the St Vrain River jumped its banks, cascading across main thoroughfares and making travel across the city impossible overnight.

Exploring: Umbrella-toting residents take pictures of the damage the flooding had on a street in Boulder on Friday

Exploring: Umbrella-toting residents take pictures of the damage the flooding had on a street in Boulder on Friday

Home invasion: A couple returns to find their home Friday to find it water-damaged from the previous days floods

Home invasion: A couple returns to find their home Friday to find it water-damaged from the previous days floods

Survivor: So far, officials have announced three deaths related to the flooding. Above, a man is rescued by emergency workers after he spent the night trapped on high ground above his home

Survivor: So far, officials have announced three deaths related to the flooding. Above, a man is rescued by emergency workers after he spent the night trapped on high ground above his home

Battling the storm: A man in Boulder attempts to make a mud barrier to protect his house from the flooding

Battling the storm: A man in Boulder attempts to make a mud barrier to protect his house from the flooding

Boots are no use: Homeowner Hannah Hinseth returns to her home to survey the damage caused by the severe flooding

Boots are no use: Homeowner Hannah Hinseth returns to her home to survey the damage caused by the severe flooding

Street sweepers: Residents shovel debris to form a protective dike in a neighborhood of Boulder

Street sweepers: Residents shovel debris to form a protective dike in a neighborhood of Boulder

'Our city is completely divided,' by the floodwaters, assistant city manager Shawn Lewis told Reuters.

Lewis said 7,000 households were under mandatory evacuation orders. The city opened two emergency shelters for displaced residents.

President Barack Obama approved a federal disaster assistance request, which will release funds to help with emergency protection, Governor John Hickenlooper's office said late on Thursday.

National Guard troops were dispatched with emergency supplies to the remote town of Lyons, north of Boulder, which was virtually cut off from surrounding areas when floodwaters washed out U.S. Route 36, county officials said.

Cut-off: Towns like Magnolia, above, have been completely shut off after the raging waters washed out roads

Cut-off: Towns like Magnolia, above, have been completely shut off after the raging waters washed out roads

Waiting for rescue: All road access to the town of Lyons, Colorado was cut-off and National Guard troops have been dispatched to bring residents emergency supplies. Above a wiped out road near the base of Boulder Canyon

Waiting for rescue: All road access to the town of Lyons, Colorado was cut-off and National Guard troops have been dispatched to bring residents emergency supplies. Above a wiped out road near the base of Boulder Canyon

Baby's first flood: A young family take a walk on Friday to survey the damage in their Boulder neighborhood

Baby's first flood: A young family take a walk on Friday to survey the damage in their Boulder neighborhood

A river runs through it: Lefthand Creek runs down a neighborhood street in Longmont, Colorado Friday

A river runs through it: Lefthand Creek runs down a neighborhood street in Longmont, Colorado Friday

Clean-up: Today, a farmer is seen clearing debris from railroad tracks in Longmont, Colorado

Clean-up: Today, a farmer is seen clearing debris from railroad tracks in Longmont, Colorado

Back at last: Evelyn Mortiz carries her luggage barefoot back home after spending the night with friends during the mandatory evacuation in her area

Back at last: Evelyn Mortiz carries her luggage barefoot back home after spending the night with friends during the mandatory evacuation in her area

A dozen major roads in northeastern Colorado remained shut with significant damage from flooding, mudslides, rockfalls and other debris, the Colorado Department of Transportation said late on Thursday.

Heavy summer rains are not unusual for Colorado, but the intensity and duration of the downpour that began on Monday night was unprecedented.

The National Weather Service said at least 12.3 inches of rain have fallen on Boulder since September 1, smashing a 73-year-old record of 5.5 inches for the month.

Cleaning house: Lucas Calderon-Griek uses a broom to sweep out the water from his home in Upland

Cleaning house: Lucas Calderon-Griek uses a broom to sweep out the water from his home in Upland

Aid: Colorado National Guardsmen help relocate a family trapped at their heavily-flooded home

Aid: Colorado National Guardsmen help relocate a family trapped at their heavily-flooded home

Record-breaking: The former record for rainfall during the month of September was 5.5 inches. That's been shattered already with the National Weather Service saying that 12.3 inches have fallen

Record-breaking: The former record for rainfall during the month of September was 5.5 inches. That's been shattered already with the National Weather Service saying that 12.3 inches have fallen

Wreckage: A man cleans up Canon Avenue after a flash flood burst a manhole and sent water rushing down the streets of Manitou

Wreckage: A man cleans up Canon Avenue after a flash flood burst a manhole and sent water rushing down the streets of Manitou

Pop-up pool: A couple play in the flooded Utah Park in Aurora, Colorado yesterday

Pop-up pool: A couple play in the flooded Utah Park in Aurora, Colorado yesterday

Back to work: Men at Namaste Solar are pictured clearing debris off of their work site today in Boulder

Back to work: Men at Namaste Solar are pictured clearing debris off of their work site today in Boulder

One body was found in a collapsed building near Jamestown, an evacuated enclave north of Boulder.

A couple were swept away in floodwaters after stopping their car northwest of the city. The man's body was recovered but the woman was missing and feared dead, said Commander Heidi Prentup of the Boulder County Sheriff's Office.

The body of a third confirmed fatality, a 54-year-old man, was found by police on flood-watch patrols in a Colorado Springs creek, about 100 miles to the south, officials said.

On Friday, a woman who had been swept away was found dead near Boulder, raising the death toll to four.

Nearly 150 people were killed near Boulder in 1976 by a flash flood along the Big Thompson Canyon.

Out of control: The heavy rainfalls have turned Boulder Creek into a raging river with enough power to wash out roads

Out of control: The heavy rainfalls have turned Boulder Creek into a raging river with enough power to wash out roads

Ominous: Clouds cover the Denver skyline early this morning. It continues to rain in the area

Ominous: Clouds cover the Denver skyline early this morning. It continues to rain in the area

Up in the air: A Rocky Mountain Rescue Team prepares to depart in a National Guard piloted helicopter

Up in the air: A Rocky Mountain Rescue Team prepares to depart in a National Guard piloted helicopter

Swamped: A National Guard vehicle drives through a flooded area in Boulder County Thursday as rain continued to pour

Swamped: A National Guard vehicle drives through a flooded area in Boulder County Thursday as rain continued to pour

Pup saved! This family's poodle couldn't be left behind

Pup saved! This family's poodle couldn't be left behind

Distractions: Carolyn Hornung, distracted by her phone, casually stands in flowing water outside her house in Boulder, Colorado Friday

Distractions: Carolyn Hornung, distracted by her phone, casually stands in flowing water outside her house in Boulder, Colorado Friday

 

 

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