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Colorado floods: Over 500 unaccounted for as ‘devastating’ rain looms

Clear skies allowed for more evacuations and rescues in flood-devastated Colorado on today, but the forecast through tomorrow called for more heavy rain.

Even after the last of the storms, authorities can’t say how long it will take to reach residents who will remain isolated by devastated roads.

The confirmed death toll reached four when Boulder County officials recovered the body of a woman who had been swept away after getting out of her vehicle Thursday, Sheriff Joe Pelle said. Authorities already had recovered the body of a man who left the same car and tried to save the woman.

One other death had been reported in Boulder County and one occurred in El Paso County.

President Barack Obama declared an emergency for Boulder, Larimer and El Paso counties, FEMA announced Friday. The declaration allowed FEMA to bring in four rescue teams, the largest ever deployment in Colorado, officials said.

More heavy rain is forecast through Sunday for the region, on top of the 15 inches some parts of the state have already received.

“This isn’t over,” CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said.

On Friday, National Guard troops using “high-profile” trucks to wade through water were evacuating the entire Boulder County town of Lyons, which had been cut off since the flooding began Wednesday night.

“It just really felt like God came down and saved us. It felt great,” Melinda Villa said of the National Guard’s arrival at the Lyons apartment where she was stranded with her 1-month-old infant. She said, “I just felt like I was trapped. No phone, no water, barely any formula for my baby, barely any food for us.”

Jonathan Linenberger described a Noah’s Ark-style evacuation as he, his fiancee and four dogs and three cats greeted the National Guard truck.

“We had to go (through) knee-deep water, at least. We had to wade our animals across into the truck to get them there,” said Linenberger. “That was the first thing you can grab, your loved ones — and that’s what we have.”

The National Guard also was evacuating the entire population — 285 people — from the town of Jamestown by helicopter, CNN affiliate KCNC-TV reported.

Four helicopters were being used for rescues in Boulder County Friday, Pelle said. The sheriff said helicopters also may have to be used indefinitely to deliver food and water to residents along damaged rural roads.

“Please know we’re working hard,” Pelle told residents who might see his televised news conference. “We’re concerned about you. But you’re going to have to be patient. Please know this is an unprecented event.”

About 80 people in Boulder County have been reported missing or “unaccounted for” by relatives, Sheriff’s Cmdr. Heidi Prentup said.

The University of Colorado canceled Saturday’s scheduled football game against Fresno State.

In Larimer County to the north, Sheriff Justin Smith surveyed the heavily damaged Big Thompson Canyon by air Friday. Some people remain stranded in homes there, he said, adding, “How we’re going to get them out — it’s going to take a damn long time.”

However, he said the break in the rain Friday allowed school buses to begin evacuating students who had been stranded at a school.

Smith described widespread damage to roads. He estimated 17 miles of Highway 34, a major artery, will need to be rebuilt.

Image / Via CNN

For video and photos please visit CNN’s full story here


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