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Rain Still Falling In Waterlogged Northern Colorado

Sep 16, 2013
Originally published on September 16, 2013 5:09 am
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Hundreds of people remain stranded in areas north of Denver hit by rains and flash floods. At least four people have died, others are missing. NPR's Kirk Siegler reports.

KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: There's a lot of bad news here, but there are also some remarkable stories of people getting out just in time. For teenager Marissa Casey it was the middle of the night as a wall of water spilled into her family's home near the town of Lyons.

MARISSA CASEY: We walked out and it was waist deep, which is on me about two and a half, three feet. We started floating away. I was holding my cat.

SIEGLER: Casey was wearing a borrowed over-sized hoodie and shoes four sizes too big as she and her dad, John, recounted their evacuation yesterday at a shelter down in Longmont.

JOHN CASEY: And so they had to climb up a cliff with two cats holding each other. And we have a huge pond that's 10 feet deep so they couldn't tell where the pond was and the river because it was all one. So they were like, are we going to walk into a 10 foot pond holding cats or not, so my wife sprained her ankle, got up to the top multi-scratched, but they've been rocking.

SIEGLER: Father and daughter have just been reunited at the shelter. John Casey was out of town when the floods came, his wife and daughter trapped in Lyons. Marissa says her hometown is devastated.

CASEY: What I heard is they're not letting people back into town for another two to three months. That's if the dam doesn't break. And if the dam breaks, it'll be who knows? There won't be a town to go back to.

SIEGLER: Lyons, population 1,500, is not unique. Higher up in the mountains, flash floods have ripped apart towns and destroyed whole stretches of every road going in and out. More heavy rain yesterday grounded helicopters that have been flying in and rescuing trapped people. At a news conference in Larimer County, incident commander Shane Del Grosso promised more federal reinforcements are on the way today.

Weather permitting, two large urban search and rescue teams will begin scouring neighborhoods on foot.

SHANE DEL GROSSO: Time is of the essence, both for them and for the weather that's coming over the next couple of weeks and even into the next month.

SIEGLER: This is usually around when Colorado gets its first snow and much of the attention during these deadly floods has been on all the people stranded in the mountains, but in recent days flood waters have spilled out onto the plains and wreaked just as much havoc. The Platte River is flowing at historic levels. Corn fields, dairies, oil and gas wells are thigh deep in water.

In the small city of Evans, south of Greely, the waste water treatment plant has failed.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Everybody is responsible to not flush, not shower, do everything that they're saying to do because there's not enough bottled water to keep people alive during this time.

SIEGLER: Residents crowded into a community meeting yesterday looking for answers. Evans is home to a large immigrant community attracted by jobs at the nearby feed lots and meat packing plant. Many here are poor and don't have anywhere else to go right now. The basement in Daniella Foustol's home on Pueblo Street is full of contaminated water.

DANIELLA FOUSTOL: We haven't even been home, so we evacuated, so we're staying with a family member. We don't know when we're going to be back.

SIEGLER: Choking back tears, Foustal says she's just glad she and her family are still alive. She says she and her neighbors are counting on help from FEMA that they've been told is on its way. Kirk Siegler, NPR News, Denver. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.