DENVER -- Four days of rain have turned parts of Colorado into a flash-flood zone as rising waters have brought death, destruction and mudslides, forcing evacuations and shuttering schools.
At least three deaths have been confirmed, officials said Thursday, as search-and-rescue teams were trying to reach stranded residents and motorists in Boulder and nearby mountain communities and heavy rains continued.
“The city of Boulder is just overwhelmed with water,” Barbara Halpin, a spokeswoman for the Boulder Office of Emergency Management, told The Times. “I’ve heard from people who say they have lived here for 25 years and have never seen anything like it.”
The National Weather Service warned of an “extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation” throughout the region as it posted flash-flood warnings, watches and advisories throughout the morning.
“Move to higher ground now,” the weather service said. “Act quickly to protect your life.”
Halpin said officials are seeing flooding in areas that are not even close to water. Many major roads in and out of Boulder were closed or impassable, and officials were asking people to stay in their homes. Schools throughout the area were closed, including the main campus of the University of Colorado.
As many as 500 graduate students, faculty, staff and their families were evacuated as a precautionary measure from Faculty/Staff Court, Athens Court and ground-floor units in Newton Court on Wednesday evening, according to the university’s website. The evacuations affected 234 housing units, and it was not known when the residents will be able to return to the complexes.
Water has been reported to numerous buildings, the university said.
School closed included Boulder Valley School District, St. Vrain School District and Estes Park. Coal Creek K-8, Narapa University and the Friends’ School in Boulder were also closed.
Thursday was the fourth day of steady rain in the area, and the water has saturated the ground, caused culverts to fail and storm drains to overflow, Halpin said.
“It has been one thunderstorm on top of another,” she said.
Rainfall has increased sharply in recent days, according to the weather service. Boulder County got up to 6 inches of rain in the past 12 hours, Fort Collins up to 2 inches, Denver up to 4 inches, and Colorado Springs up to 2 inches.
The full extent of the damage remained unclear as communications were hampered and officials were having trouble getting into affected areas. Jamestown, where one death was reported, seems have been hard hit, according to reports from emergency officials.
Heavy damage was reported in at least four counties: Boulder, Larimer and Jefferson northwest of Denver, and El Paso County around Colorado Springs.
An earthen dam in the Big Elk Meadows area southeast of Estes Park gave way, and residents of Pinewood Springs and Blue Mountain were ordered to be ready to evacuate, officials said. Other dams in Larimer County were also threatened, they said.