Flash flooding in Colorado claims 3 lives, forces residents to evacuate and schools to close

BOULDER, Colo. -- Torrential rains flooded parts of Colorado overnight, killing at least three people, damaging homes, forcing evacuations, major road closures and school closures.

The first death was reported late Wednesday night in Jamestown, northwest of Boulder. Multiple buildings were reported to have collapsed in Jamestown and the person who died was trapped in one of the buildings.

The Colorado Springs Fire Department Heavy Rescue personnel recovered the body of a man from the water near Nevada and Las Vegas Streets while conducting flood patrols in the area early Thursday morning, officials tweeted.

The most recently discovered death came from Boulder County. 7NEWS reporter Tyler Lopez was told the body of an adult male was found near Linden Road, in the north part of the county.

"Boulder County is experiencing a disaster today that is broad in scope and very dangerous in nature," said Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle during a 9 a.m. press conference. "We know that we've lost lives. We anticipate that as the day goes on we may discover that we've lost others."

Pelle went on to say that mountain towns were the worst off and deputies have been "frustrated" in reaching them.

Lyons, he said, was totally isolated. Residents there lost sewer and fresh water service. Many there have huddled on high ground, including four deputies.

"We are just now beginning to assess the scope of the damage," Pelle said.

Boulder County has ordered assistance from other fire and rescue departments and the Nation Guard. Pelle said they were specifically seeking helicopters and driving vehicles that can safely pass through the water or over debris.

A 42-person FEMA urban search and rescue team was also requested.

"It's a good day to hunker down," Pelle advised.

-- Flooded areas --

Flooding is widespread, from Larimer County to El Paso County, with rock and mudslides reported in areas.

Streets throughout central and north Boulder have standing water and debris. Officials are warning residents to stay indoors and not to drive if possible. Roads are described as "impassable."

Mandatory evacuations were ordered in Jamestown late Wednesday night.

The Lyons wastewater plant breached early Thursday morning.

Just before 3 a.m. the Office of Emergency Management reported an overtopping dam near Big Elk Meadows, which is about four miles West of Pinewood Springs. Dams including Sunset Lake, Rainbow Lake, Willow Lake and Mirror Lake were overtopping and there was concern of breaching. This flooding would impact locations along County Road 47 and then downstream to near Pinewood Springs, Lyons and the Big Thompson River area.

Officials warned people in those areas to move to higher ground immediately.

Road closure information

The City of Boulder activated flood sirens near Boulder Creek  Wednesday night, urging anyone near the waterway to seek higher ground immediately. Officials warned people not to cross the creek or attempt to leave the area in a vehicle.

The University of Colorado Boulder canceled classes Thursday due to the flooding danger. Boulder Valley School District, St Vrain School District and Estes Park have also closed schools for Thursday. Coal Creek K-8 is closed because of flooding.

Details on damage to CU Boulder campus

In Niwot, water 9 to 12 inches deep and 50 feet wide was running over the intersection of 95th Street and Lookout Road late Wednesday night.

In Weld County, areas expected to experience flooding include Brighton, Firestone, Frederick, Fort Lupton, Lochbuie and Dacono.

-- Victim assistance --

The Red Cross shelter in Boulder has relocated to the YMCA of Boulder Valley at 2850 Mapleton Ave. The original site at the North Boulder Recreation Center had to be closed due to concern over rising water affecting access to and safety of the original site on Broadway.

Boulder and Larimer County officials are keeping a close watch on burn areas for possible mudslides.
The Red Cross has helpful flood safety tips online and encourages media to share this proactive information with audiences: http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/flood . This page also includes recovery information for safe return after flooding.

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