Rescues accelerate as floodwater inundates Colo.
By P. SOLOMON BANDA and BEN NEARY, APLYONS, Colo. — By air and by land, the rescue of hundreds of Coloradoans stranded by epic mountain flooding was accelerating as food and water supplies ran low, while thousands more were driven from their homes on the plains as debris-filled rivers became muddy seas inundating towns and farms miles from the Rockies.
September 14, 2013, 2:04 pm TWN
For the first time since the harrowing mountain floods began Wednesday, Colorado got its first broad view of the devastation — and the reality of what is becoming a long-term disaster is setting in. The flooding has affected parts of a 4,500-square-mile area, almost the size of Connecticut.
National Guard choppers were evacuating 295 people — plus pets — from the mountain hamlet of Jamestown, which was isolated by flooding that scoured the canyon the town sits in.
Mike Smith, incident commander at Boulder Municipal Airport, said helicopters would continue flying in and out late into the night.
The outlook for anyone who'd rather stay is weeks without power, cellphone service, water or sewer.
"Essentially, what they were threatening us with is, 'If you stay here, you may be here for a month,'" said 79-year-old Dean Hollenbaugh, who was evacuated by Chinook helicopter from Jamestown, northwest of Boulder.
For those awaiting an airlift, Guardsmen dropped food, water and other supplies in Jamestown and other small towns in the winding, narrow canyons that dot the Rocky Mountain foothills.
Thousands of evacuees sought shelter in cities that were nearly surrounded by raging rivers spilling over their banks.
One was Mary Hemme, 62, who displayed a pair of purple socks as she sat outside the Lifebridge Christian Church in Longmont. They're a memento of the more than 30 hours she spent in an elementary school in the flood-stricken mountain town of Lyons. Many evacuees — eventually rescued by National Guard trucks — got socks because most of them had wet feet, Hemme said.
She recalled the sirens blared at 2:30 a.m. Wednesday.
"Mary we have to go, this place is flooding," she recalled her friend Kristen Vincent saying as they clambered out of a trailer.
"And we stepped out of the trailer, onto the ground where the cars were parked, and it already like this, almost to our knees," she said. "It wasn't just sitting there. It was rushing at us."
Soon the trailer, like others in the park where she was staying, was submerged.