More than 500 stranded victims of major flooding in Colorado braced for a new round of heavy rain yesterday that was threatening to impede rescue efforts.
Officials said many of those unaccounted for may simply not be able to telephone loved ones because of flood damage to many cellphone towers.
New flash floods were expected to inundate the area, which thousands were forced to evacuate. A flash flood watch was in effect through the evening for the entire Denver metro area, as well as the northern Front Range Foothills and mountains.
On Saturday, large hail the size of peas or even marbles pummeled parts of the city of Aurora, according to local weather reports.
A series of thunderstorms also struck the area.
Raging floodwaters in the city of Boulder, already confirmed to have killed at least four people, apparently claimed the life of a fifth on Saturday — a 60-year-old woman swept away in the torrent.
The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office said on Twitter that the woman was “missing presumed dead,” after floodwaters destroyed her house, and officials warned that the toll would likely climb further.
“There might be further loss of life,” Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle told reporters.
However, some additional help was on the way, with US President Barack Obama declaring a major disaster in Colorado and ordering federal aid to support state and local efforts.
The Wyoming National Guard was helping the evacuation effort after Wyoming Governor Matt Mead activated five UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and 20 crew members, the state’s military department said.
In the disaster zone, helicopters circled above submerged houses in a search for survivors in the western US state, with hundreds still missing.
About 350 people were unaccounted for in Larimer County alone, from where about 475 people were evacuated, according to the sheriff’s office.
In neighboring Boulder County, 231 people were unaccounted for, according to CNN, though authorities cautioned that the numbers were fluctuating.
Search and rescue teams are being deployed to assess the situation and contact stranded residents.
The US National Guard provided seven helicopters to help get people out of danger. About 1,200 residents were pulled out of the Pinewood Springs area by the National Guard and Fort Carson personnel, state authorities said on Twitter.
Impassable roads forced authorities to use a helicopter to evacuate 200 residents from Jamestown, northwest of Boulder, according to news reports.
Officials said there were widespread power outages as streets became raging rivers after the state received months’ worth of rain in just a few days.
Rain began pelting the state last week with more downpours forecast for the weekend, Boulder saw 18.3cm of precipitation in about 15 hours beginning on Wednesday night.
Pictures from helicopter cameras showed heavy rain had reduced the towns of Jamestown, Lyons and Longmont to little more than islands, with ready-to-eat meals being dropped to stranded, anxious residents below.