Colorado gives new meaning to the saying, “when it rains it pours” as flooding continues making rescue efforts difficult. As of Sunday, the number of people missing exceeded 1,200. In Larimer County no less than 1,000 people were waiting to be rescued on Sunday but the rain caused airlifts to be grounded.
Efforts continued on Monday to rescue the trapped victims of this tragic flooding in Colorado but the weather is making it very difficult. Currently at least five people are known to have died due to the flooding but so many more are missing and unaccounted for. Flooding has now spread to 15 counties and the rain is still falling.
An elderly woman, 80-years-old, who was injured and couldn’t leave her home, is missing and thought to be dead after the flood washed her home away. Another woman who is 60-years-old is thought to have been killed as well by the floods. Her home was destroyed by the river. Many relatives have seen the houses of their loved ones on various news communications and are afraid but don’t know what to think. They are hoping they are safe but because the communication channels have been terminated they have no way of finding out.
Many of the missing people have been unreachable by phone; most of the residents lost cell phones, landlines and internet access nearly a week ago. Even though the death tolls will more than likely rise they are hopeful that the majority of the missing people are safe and sound and will be located. Over the weekend some areas have had their phone service restored and officials are hoping that the number of missing residents will drop.
Governor John Hickenlooper said at least 16 helicopters would be back out searching on Monday for missing residents. He said the main focus right now is getting the people who are trapped out of there.
A spokesman for the Colorado National Guard said that helicopters had been grounded but as soon as the weather changes and it’s safe enough they will be right back in the air searching. For many this will be their only way out because the flood has washed away many of the bridges and roads. Personnel are rescuing others using Light Medium Tactical Vehicles; these vehicles can roll right over damaged roads.
People who are trapped but can’t use their phones and have no other way to communicate are being urged to alert or signal helicopters that are passing through with sheets, signal flares or mirrors. The helicopter rescue teams will be looking out for all types of signals to get these residents to safety.
Currently, at least 17,500 homes are damaged and more than 1,500 homes have been destroyed. Nearly 12,000 people have been evacuated and more than 1,200 are reported missing.
Frank Lancaster, Estes Park town administrator, called this flood a 500-year event. He said this is much worse than previous flash floods primarily due to the continuous rainfall and widespread damage to infrastructure. Major roads have been washed away and small towns have been reduced to debris. Any homes that survive this horrible situation could be unreachable and unlivable for up to a year.
He added that that even with what has been destroyed, it appears that there has been no loss of life in Estes Park and the Estes Valley.
In the town of Lyons, most of the trailer parks were destroyed completely. This town is about 20 miles from Estes Park. The few remaining residents were given a final warning on Sunday to leave.
The National Weather Service has predicted warmer and drier conditions by mid afternoon. Rain is expected to end sometime tonight but there is still the possibility of flash flooding late this afternoon through early evening and even scattered thunderstorms.
With continuous rain for seven days straight, these towns have gotten as much rain as they would in a year. The Office of Emergency Management is expecting the weather to clear up enough today in order to allow increased helicopter rescue of flood victims.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)