Days of heavy rains caused flash flooding in Colorado’s Boulder County early Thursday that has flooded street, triggered mudslides, prompted evacuations, and left at least three people dead.
Widespread high waters are keeping search and rescue teams from reaching stranded residents and motorists in Boulder and nearby mountain communities as heavy rains continued to hammer the area Thursday.
Authorities said one person was believed to have died in a building collapse near the town of Jamestown, NBC News reported.
The other two bodies were found along roadways.
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 NWS said in a statement just after midnight the intensity of the rains had created a “life-threatening situation.” About 6.5 inches of rain had fallen around Boulder in 24 hours, the service said.
“The rains have been sitting over that area,” Boulder Office of Emergency Management spokeswoman Gabriella Boerkircher said. Boulder offices and facilities, including the university, libraries and recreation centers, were closed on Thursday due to the conditions. Hundreds of university students living near a creek in the city have also been evacuated.
Boerkircher said volunteers were trying to help stranded people until emergency crews could arrive because many roads were impassable. “We’re trying to get to Jamestown,” she said. “A lot of towns need assistance, and we cannot get through.
In Lyons, north of Boulder, water spilled over the top of five dams, Boerkircher said. Emergency officials were monitoring the dams, which hadn’t broken as of early Thursday.
National Weather Service meteorologist Bob Kleyla said a 20-foot wall of water was reported in left hand Canyon north of Boulder, and a firefighter radioed he was trapped in a tree. He said rescuers were trying to get through, but we blocked by debris.
The National Weather Service said moderate to heavy rain were forecast through Thursday evening and said rainfall rates “in excess of 2 inches per hour” could lead to flash flooding.
The forecast for Boulder area could see a chance of rain through Sunday, NWS said.
Flash flood emergencies were also issued downstream from the Front Range mountain areas, including Fort Lupton, Dacono, Plateville and other farming areas as debris piled up near bridges.
The Boulder Daily Camera said Boulder has been listed among Colorado’s top flood hazards and was included on a national list of six “disasters waiting to happen” published by Colorado University in 2004.
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