Hundreds missing in Colorado floods

Updated: 2013-09-15 10:35


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Hundreds missing in Colorado floods

Main Street is seen covered with several feet of mud in Jamestown, Colorado, after a flash flood destroyed much of the town, September 14, 2013. Colorado farming communities along the South Platte River were ordered to evacuate ahead of a predicted surge in the flooding, which may have claimed a fifth life and has left many still unaccounted for, authorities said on Saturday. [Photo/Agencies]

BOULDER, Colorado - Rescuers rushed by land and by air Saturday to evacuate Coloradoans stranded by epic mountain flooding as debris-filled rivers became muddy seas that extended into towns and farms miles from the Rockies.

Four people have been confirmed dead since the harrowing floods began Wednesday. And hundreds of others have not been heard from in the flood zone, which has grown to cover an area covering nearly 4,500 square miles (11,655 square kilometers), nearly the size of the US state of Connecticut.

Some of those who are unaccounted for may be stranded or injured. Others might have gotten out but not yet contacted friends and relatives, officials said.

But police expected to find more bodies as the full scope of damage becomes clear.

A woman was missing and presumed dead after witnesses saw floodwaters from the Big Thompson River destroy her home in the Cedar Cove area, Larimer County sheriff's spokesman John Schulz said.

"I expect that we're going to continue to receive reports of confirmed missing and confirmed fatalities throughout the next several days," he said.

National Guard helicopters and truck convoys broke through to paralyzed canyon communities where thousands of stranded residents were eager to escape the Rocky Mountain foothills. But not everybody was willing to go. Dozens of people in the isolated community of Jamestown wanted to stay to watch over their homes.

Authorities warned residents who chose not to leave that they might not get another chance for a while and should be prepared to endure weeks without electricity, running water and basic supplies.

"We're not trying to force anyone from their home. We're not trying to be forceful, but we're trying to be very factual and definitive about the consequences of their decision, and we hope that they will come down," Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said.

Special education teacher Brian Shultz, 38, was torn about leaving his Jamestown home as he sat outside a makeshift shelter at a high school.

"I was thinking about staying. I could have lasted at least a year. I have a lot of training in wilderness survival," he said, adding that he probably had enough beer to last the whole time.

His wife, Meagan Harrington, gave him a wry smile. About 10 of their neighbors declined to evacuate, she said.

"They said they wouldn't force you, but it was strongly encouraged," she said.

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