Major cities and towns across Colorado’s Front Range have been completely cut off by epic, raging floods that have so far killed two people and snarled traffic throughout the state as major roadways vanish under water.
Five days of nearly nonstop rain in the foothills produced a torrent of flash flooding that toppled buildings, washed away entire sections of canyon roads and swelled rivers and streams as far east of the mountains as I-25. The major north-south highway was closed in two places on Friday as the Poudre and Big Thompson rivers in Fort Collins and Loveland overtook the roadway.
Worst hit is Boulder County, where the mountain towns of Lyons and Jamestown have been completely cut off by floodwaters. The cities of Boulder and Estes Park saw their major streets turned into swiftly-moving waterways. The number of buildings damaged by flooding has yet to be tallied, but scores of people experienced flooded basements and deep water in some first floor areas.
Authorities across the state have warned people throughout the Front Range to move to higher ground or, if they’re safe where they are, to stay put. Gov. John Hickenlooper called out the National Guard on Thursday to help evacuate people stranded in Lyons and other communities cut off by flooding.
Guardsmen in specialized high-profile personnel carriers were able to drive through racing water that was deep enough to sweep civilian cars off the road and bring residents to safety.
Magpul Industries, the ammunition magazine manufacturer that is looking to relocate to another state because of Colorado’s new gun control laws, helped with the rescue effort, according to Denver’s 9News. The company has a Unimog all-purpose four-wheel drive truck that resembles a small military vehicle.
Splashed with the company’s logo, it’s normally used for marketing, but was put to work fording the floodwaters to assist guardsmen in rescuing stranded residents.
At least three people have died — one man in a Jamestown structure that collapsed from the force of water and two others whose bodies were pulled from waters in the northern areas of Boulder County.
“Boulder County is experiencing a disaster today that is broad in scope and very dangerous in nature,” Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said during a press conference Thursday morning.
“We know that we’ve lost lives,” he said. “We anticipate that as the day goes on we may discover that we’ve lost others.”
The forecast calls for continued rain throughout Friday and possibly into Saturday. The numerous wildfire burn areas in the eastern mountains that are bare of vegetation and can’t absorb rainwater make the deluge worse.
The National Weather Service said the flooding is a “100-year event,” meaning there’s a 1-in-100 chance of something of this scale happening each year.
The reported rainfall has smashed all previous records. Boulder has recorded more than a foot of rainfall from Monday-Thursday. As of this writing, it’s still raining.
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