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Colorado battles historic flooding; more rain to come

8:51 PM, Sep 14, 2013   |    comments
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BOULDER, Colo. -- Another round of storms swept into battered Colorado on Saturday as weary residents reeled from days of death and destruction wrought by historic flooding.

Evacuations continued at a frantic pace as rescuers encountered swamped roads, inundated homes and the dark forecast of more rain to come.

"It is a sinking feeling when you realize that when some people call ... we are not going to be able to get to them," Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said. "But we are making great progress."

Pelle said more than 170 people unaccounted for in the Boulder area were not considered missing yet, though they had not contacted family members.

One woman is presumed dead and about 350 were unaccounted for as officials discovered the enormity of destruction the floods brought to Larimer County and an unknown number of homes, The Coloradoan reported Saturday.

Meanwhile, the sun peeked out over the debris-strewn area, providing a brief respite before clouds and more rain crept into the area. Days of torrential rains have left at least four people dead and another missing and presumed dead.

Thousands of people have fled homes in an area that normally sees less than 2 inches of rain in all of September but has been deluged by more than 14 inches this week alone, the National Weather Service said.

The lastest storms "could bring another 1-3 inches of rain," Scott Entrekin, a weather service meteorologist in Boulder, told USA TODAY. "We don't expect quite the level of intensity we've seen the last few days, but the soil is saturated, so it won't take much to do damage."

Entrekin said the storms, which have brought flooding in some areas that "we've never seen before," could ease Sunday. "Hopefully after that we will start drying out," he said.

The missing woman could become the fifth confirmed death. Witnesses saw floodwaters from the Big Thompson River destroy her home in the Cedar Cove area, Larimer County sheriff's spokesman John Schulz said.

"We're sure there are going to be additional homes that have been destroyed, but we won't know that for a while," Schulz said. "I expect that we're going to continue to receive reports of confirmed missing and confirmed fatalities throughout the next several days."

Many of those driven from their homes may not be able to return for weeks. Early Saturday, National Guard helicopters evacuated hundreds of residents from Jamestown, a mountain town northwest of Boulder.

"We are not going to force anyone from their home," Pelle said Saturday, but he noted that "if they don't come today, we want people to know that we may not be able to get them tomorrow."

Pelle lauded federal emergency officials for their quick response, providing material and personnel on the ground. A day earlier, President Obama declared an emergency for three counties in Colorado, and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts.

Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate said a FEMA assistance team was coordinating with state and local officials. The U.S. Transportation Department said it would immediately provide $5 million in emergency relief funds to help Colorado cover the costs of repairing roads and bridges.

Flood warnings remained in effect Saturday from Denver to the Wyoming border. Parts of New Mexico and Texas also were dealing with torrential rains, flooding and evacuations.

About 15 miles north of Boulder, the Colorado National Guard began evacuating 2,500 residents of Lyons at daybreak Friday.

"There's no way out of town. There's no way into town. So, basically, now we're just on an island," said Jason Stillman, 37, who was forced with his fiancée to evacuate their home in Lyons after a nearby river began to overflow into the street.

USA Today

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