The Free Press, Mankato, MN

September 12, 2013

1 dead as flash flooding hits parts of Colo.

STEVEN K. PAULSON
Associated Press

---- — DENVER (AP) — Flash flooding in Colorado's Boulder County has left one person dead and the widespread high waters are keeping search and rescue teams from reaching stranded residents and motorists in Boulder and nearby mountain communities, as heavy rains hammered northern Colorado on Thursday.

Boulder Office of Emergency Management spokeswoman Gabrielle Boerkircher said volunteers are trying to help stranded people until emergency crews can arrive because many roads are impassable.

Boerkircher told The Associated Press that one person was killed when a structure collapsed in Jamestown. She said no details were available on the collapsed building.

"We're trying to get to Jamestown. A lot of towns need assistance, and we cannot get through," she said.

Many roads were closed because of flooding and debris. Coal Creek Canyon northwest of Denver was closed because of a washed-out highway.

The Larimer County office of emergency information said an earthen dam in the Big Elk Meadows area southeast of Estes Park gave way and residents of Pinewood Springs and Blue Mountain were ordered to be ready to evacuate.

Residents of the Big Elk Meadows area were told by a recorded message they "should be seeking higher ground immediately."

Capt. John Burt of the Colorado State Patrol said damage was being reported in four counties, including Boulder, Larimer and Jefferson northwest of Denver and El Paso County around Colorado Springs.

Burt said a heavy storm cell moved through during the night, dumping heavy amounts of rain, spread east causing flooding on the Eastern Plains, then turned around and headed back.

"It's a different weather cell than we have seen in the past," he said.

Rainfall in recent days that dramatically increased on Wednesday caused the flash flooding that also triggered mudslides and prompted evacuations. The Weather Service said early Thursday that more than four inches of rain had fallen in some areas since noon Wednesday.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood emergency for the county and northwest Jefferson County, while a mandatory evacuation order was in effect for the tiny community of Jamestown and the Fourmile area.

"The rains have been sitting over that area," Boerkircher said.

The Weather Service said that county officials reported some homes had collapsed in Jamestown, where dozens of people live, according to a report by The Denver Post.

The office said there have been no other reports of any deaths or injuries.

An evacuation center for the mountain residents has been sent up in nearby Nederland, officials said.

Meanwhile, about 400 students at the University of Colorado housing in Boulder were evacuated and classes canceled Thursday because of the flooding, Boekircher said.

"We've asked people in low-lying areas all through the county to evacuate," said Andrew Barth, another Emergency Management spokesman.

In addition to the two counties where there were flood emergencies, the Weather Service posted flash flood warnings for parts of Broomfield, Adams, Weld, Larimer, and El Paso counties.

Mudslides and rockslides were reported in several areas, with parts of U.S. 6, Boulder Canyon, Colorado 14 and U.S. 287 all reporting problems and temporary blockages during the evening, the Denver Post said. Lefthand Canyon was reported blocked by one of the many slides.

Boulder police dispatchers were receiving calls of flooding basements and homes and of flooded streets and submerged cars. Authorities said the flooding has made many Boulder streets impassable.

Emergency Management Director Mike Chard.said people should avoid creeks and waterways, and not attempt to cross flooded intersections in their cars.

"We're also asking people who are OK to shelter in place Thursday, just because the roads are so bad," Barth said.

As the flooding began Wednesday evening, the city of Erie was the hardest hit in the county with up to a foot of water across Erie Parkway, according to a report by KCNC.

As the rains continued, conditions deteriorated early Thursday across the region.