As weary Coloradans return home after days of staggering floods, the receding waters are revealing toppled houses, upended vehicles, and a stinking layer of muck.
State emergency officials reported Monday that the floods damaged or destroyed about 19,000 homes, a number likely to rise as more areas become accessible. The death toll also rose to eight, although several hundred people remain missing. With widespread loss of communication and infrastructure, precise accounting for the missing remains elusive. “You’ve 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.
Helicopter rescues evacuated 420 stranded Larimer County residents Monday, while authorities in Boulder County airlifted 215 people. Officials are hopeful the number of missing people will continue to drop sharply as rescue crews reach more areas and restore communications to those stranded.
Anthony Alvarado, a hydraulic engineer from Fort Collins, Colo., hiked in to survey the flooding on the Big Thompson river Friday: “The power of the Big [Thompson] was just mind-blowing and so underrated. It’s laughable that we think we could control these rivers and just do what we want.” He said the cause of the flooding from a hydraulic standpoint is simple: Heavy rains poured down on already saturated ground.
Thankfully this level of rain is rare. Russ Schumacher, a researcher at Colorado State University, calculated the amount of rain that fell during the critical 48-hour window last week had a 0.1 percent chance of occurring in any given year, according to a report on AtmosNews.