The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

September 16, 2013

Flooded Colo. towns clean up as rescues continue

— ESTES PARK, Colo. (AP) — Colorado mountain towns cut off for days by massive flooding slowly reopened to reveal cabins toppled, homes ripped from their foundations and everything covered in a thick layer of muck. Anxious home and business owners hurriedly cleaned and cleared what they could salvage as rescuers looked for a break in the weather Monday to resume airlifting those still stranded.

Crews plowed up to a foot of mud left standing along Estes Park's main street after the river coursed through the heart of town late last week.

"I hope I have enough flood insurance," said Amy Hamrick, whose friends helped her pull up flooring and clear water and mud from the crawl space at her coffee shop. Her inventory was safely stashed at her home on higher grounds, she said.

Emergency officials offered a first glimpse at the scope of the damage. Counties reported some 1,500 homes have been destroyed and about 17,500 damaged, according to an initial estimate released Sunday by the Colorado Office of Emergency Management.

State emergency officials reported more than 1,200 people total had not been heard from, but that number already was dropping Monday as Larimer County said it had made contact with hundreds of people previously unaccounted for.

With rescuers reaching more pockets of stranded residents and phone service being restored in some areas, officials expect that number will continue to decrease.

"You're got to remember, a lot of these folks lost cellphones, landlines, the Internet four to five days ago," Gov. John Hickenlooper said on NBC's "Today" show. "I am very hopeful that the vast majority of these people are safe and sound."

The death toll remained at four confirmed fatalities and two missing and presumed dead.

Nineteen helicopters stood ready to resume airlifts, but the weather kept them grounded Monday morning. On Sunday, military helicopters rescued 12 people before the rain forced the operations to stop and 80 more people were evacuated by ground, Colorado National Guard Lt. James Goff said.

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