Flooding has hit northern Colorado hard since heavy rain fell there last week. Some parts of Boulder got 21 inches of rain. Rushing water destroyed roads, bridges, and whole neighborhoods. At least 19,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed.
Many people had to leave their homes to stay safe. State officials asked people who lived close to where flooding could occur to evacuate (leave quickly in an emergency).
At least eight people have died, and hundreds are missing. Authorities think most people may be fine. They believe many who escaped the floods are merely unable to contact their loved ones since the flooding also damaged cell phone service and telephone wires.
FLEEING FOR SAFETY
National Guard helicopters had to be called out to rescue a group of 85 fifth-graders trapped after the heavy rains. The students from Louisville, Colo., were trapped during a field trip in the mountains around Jamestown. The students had no way out of the mountains except through the air.
"Some parts of it were really scary, and the trails were basically rivers," one student says.
People like Tim Ferenc and Kerry Cerelli woke up one night last week to find rushing water surrounding their house. Like thousands of others in Colorado, the rising water caused them to evacuate, taking just a few prized possessions.
"It's funny the things you think are important,” Cerelli says. “In that moment, it was our dog. I grabbed my birth certificate and a couple of our stuffed animals from our childhood, and that was [all] that seemed important at the moment—just us and a couple of sweet things."
The rains that hit Colorado broke records. In Boulder alone, more than 7 inches of rain fell in just 15 hours. That beats the 1919 record, when almost 5 inches fell over the course of a day.
September is usually a very dry month in Colorado. During this time last year, the region was hit by wildfires; there had been very little rain. Weather experts say a large amount of moist air blew in from Mexico this year. That normally wouldn’t be a problem. But the moist air was forced upward by the mountains. That caused the clouds to dump even more water than first forecast. The result: record rainfall.
The Rocky Mountains have rocky soil. It cannot absorb much water. Rain in this area typically drains downward though a system of creeks and steams. After last week’s rains, those waterways became huge rivers. Water moving that fast can move or destroy almost anything in its path.
By Tuesday of this week, the rains had finally stopped. Emergency workers are now able to start clearing wreckage caused by the flooding. Residents hope their lives soon return to normal.
Officials estimate that rebuilding roads, homes, and other places destroyed by the water will cost billions of dollars. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper vows that the state will rebound.
“We’re going to come back and rebuild better than it was before,” Governor Hickenlooper says.