Front Range flooding leads to thousands more evacuations

By: Associated Press Email
By: Associated Press Email

   This is what AP reporters on the scene Thursday are learning about the unfolding events:

 2:21 MDT
   Three high-clearance, armored vehicles are heading out to the mountain community of Lyons, where residents have been trapped by flooded roads. The Red Cross says about 200 people have taken shelter in a school there.
   2:03 p.m. MDT
   No Coast Guard helicopters are coming to landlocked Colorado after all. Gov. John Hickenlooper has retracted a tweet announcing that the choppers were dispatched to help with flooding. National Guard rescue helicopters based in the state have been grounded by low visibility.
   1:25 p.m. MDT
   Access to the mountain community of Lyons has been completely cut off because of flooding and residents are hunkering down at higher ground. Despite all the water, residents are being told to only drink bottled or boiled water because of a possible breach of the town's water system.
   1:15 p.m. MDT
   Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning was slinging passes with a glove on his throwing hand as rain came down at the team's practice center in Englewood, Colo. The Broncos have a nearby indoor training facility for bad weather, but practiced on the turf as they prepare for the Giants in New York on Sunday.
   12:37 p.m. MDT
   In rural Morgan County, fire authorities urged ranchers to move cattle to higher ground as mountain rains emptied onto the plains.
   11:57 a.m.
   The Boulder County Sheriff's office is telling people to shelter in place rather than evacuate, because more people are injured in their cars. "Stay home or if they're in danger climb to higher ground," said Cmdr. Heidi Prentup. Many area roads are closed.
   11:34 a.m.
   Dave Finn, who lives near Niwot northwest of Boulder, said he had to knock down a fence to release water that had backed up behind it. He said he destroyed his fence to save his house.
   "I've never seen it like this. You know, we sort of roll our eyes when they say you have to be prepared for the 100-year flood, so here we are,"' he said.
   11:18 a.m.
   Heavy rainfall is forecast throughout much of central and northern New Mexico through the weekend, with the possibility of flash flooding.
   National Weather Service meteorologist Kerry Jones says it's likely some areas could see 6 to 10 inches of rain through the weekend.
   10:59 a.m.
   Some of Thursday's flooding was exacerbated by wildfire burn scars that have spawned flash floods up and down Colorado's Front Range this summer. That was particularly true in an area surrounding Jamestown scarred by the Fourmile Fire in 2010, and an area near Waldo Canyon in Colorado Springs to the south, which was hit in 2012.
   10:17 a.m.
   "This is not an ordinary day, it is not an ordinary disaster. All the preparation in the can't put people up those canyons while these walls of water are coming down," Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said.
   9:48 a.m.
   Rain showers and thunderstorms were expected through Thursday, with possible spot storms capable of dumping an inch of water within a half-hour, the weather service warned.
   9:34 a.m.
   At a news conference, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said National Guard helicopters are on standby, but they have been grounded because of continuing rain.

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.

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