National Guard troops in Colorado rescued stranded residents out of danger by helicopter and hauled them out of a flooded community in military trucks on Friday, two days after endless rain turned picturesque rivers and creeks into nasty looking rapids that wrecked scores of roads and wiped out neighborhoods.
Four people have died as a result of a torrential downpour that has lasted for days, with 80 people still unaccounted for.
“It means we haven’t heard back from them,” county spokesman James Burrus said.
Days of heavy rain have caused severe damage to property and forced the rescue of more than 2,500 people, Boulder County authorities have said.
The intense flooding, that managed to cover buildings in some places, began overnight Wednesday. The main reason was unusually heavy late-summer storms that drenched Colorado’s biggest urban centers, from Fort Collins near the Wyoming border south through Boulder, Denver and Colorado Springs.
The towns of Lyons, Jamestown and others in the Rocky Mountain foothills have been isolated by flooding and without power or telephone since rain hanging over the region all week intensified late Wednesday and early Thursday.
More than 15in (38cm) of rain – nearly half the region’s annual average – has fallen in a single week, according to the National Weather Service.
The relentless rush of water from higher ground turned towns into muddy swamps, and the rain returned Friday afternoon after a brief lull. In at least one community, pressure from the descending water caused sewer grates to erupt into huge black geysers, reports the Huff Post.
The town of Longmont was cut in half by the overflowing St. Vrain River. About 60 miles of Interstate 25 east of Loveland were closed Friday from north of Denver to Fort Collins because of flooding from the St. Vrain and Big Thompson rivers, transportation officials said.
National Guard troops aided by a break in the weather started airlifting 295 residents from the small community of Jamestown, which has been cut off and without power or water for more than a day.
According to the Fox New report, the weather service warned Friday of more flash flooding in Loveland. In the town of Drake, the Big Thompson River was more than 4 feet above flood stage.
At least four people were killed, including a couple swept away in flood-waters after stopping their car northwest of Boulder. The man’s body was recovered on Thursday and the woman had been missing and feared dead before her body was found on Friday.
Also killed were a person whose body was found in a collapsed building near Jamestown, an evacuated enclave north of Boulder, and a man in Colorado Springs, about 100 miles to the south, officials said.
Two backpackers got stranded by an ice storm that resulted from the same weather system that caused the flooding. Suzanne Turell and Connie Yang of York, Maine, last sent a text message Thursday with their GPS coordinates, but their cellphones went dead, said Turell’s mother, Barbara.
The pair hiked off the mountain themselves as the National Park Service was organizing a rescue effort.
President Obama signed an emergency declaration Thursday night, freeing federal aid and allowing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts.