Front Range flooding leads to thousands more evacuations

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LYONS, Colo. (AP)

September 13th Update

Rocky Mountain National Park is closing down and escorting visitors out of the park because of heavy rain there and flooding in neighboring Estes Park.

Superintendent Vaughn Baker said Friday residents of Estes Park and park visitors are using Trail Ridge Road over the Continental Divide to evacuate.

Baker said storms that have knocked out roads and stranded residents on much of Colorado's Front Range has left the park with only limited radio communications.

Baker says all employees inside the park have been accounted for and some have been evacuated from park housing as a precaution.

With rain still falling and the flood threat still real, authorities called on thousands more people in the inundated city of Boulder and nearby towns to evacuate as rivers and creeks rose to dangerous levels.

The late-night reports from Boulder and the village of Eldorado Springs came as rescuers struggled to reach dozens of people cut off by flooding in Colorado mountain towns. Residents in the Denver area and other downstream communities were warned to stay off flooded streets.

Boulder County spokesman James Burrus said 17 people were unaccounted for this morning. At least three people are dead and another is missing.

Overflowing Vrain Creek cut the town of Longmont in half. Evacuation requests were issued for some neighborhoods, all major roads were closed, and several thousand homes and businesses were without power.

Interstate 25 east of Loveland was closed in both directions.

Recap from September 12th

Heavy rains sent walls of water crashing down mountainsides in Colorado, cutting off remote towns and leaving at least three people dead across a rugged landscape that included areas blackened by recent wildfires.

Up to 8 inches fell in an area spanning from the Wyoming border south to the foothills west of Denver. Flooding extended all along the Front Range mountains.

Boulder County appeared to be hardest hit. Sheriff Joe Pelle said the town of Lyons was cut off because of flooded roads, and residents were huddling together on higher ground. Although everyone was believed to be safe, the deluge was expected to continue into Friday.

Search vehicles and rescue helicopters were standing by, but many were unable to get to mountain communities because of flooding and fog.

The flood waters triggered mudslides and have damaged or washed away at least three buildings in the mountains. They've also caused three cars to plunge into rushing water after a road collapsed in suburban Denver.

Boulder Office of Emergency Management spokeswoman Gabrielle Boerkircher said volunteers are trying to help stranded people until emergency crews can arrive because many roads are impassable.

Boerkircher said one person was killed when a structure collapsed in Jamestown.

Colorado Springs spokeswoman Kim Melchor said police conducting flood patrols found a body in the water on the west side of the city Thursday morning after warnings were issued for flooding from a wildfire burn scar west of town.

National Weather Service meteorologist Bob Kleyla says a 20-foot wall of water was reported in Left Hand Canyon north of Boulder. He says a firefighter radioed he was trapped in a tree, and rescuers were trying to get through.