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Flooding that cut off dozens of people in Colorado mountain communities swept downstream Friday, spilling rivers and creeks over their banks and forcing thousands more evacuations in towns and cities beleaguered by days of rain.
National Guard troops were able to reach Lyons after that community, Jamestown and others in the Rocky Mountain foothills were isolated by flooding and without power or telephone since Thursday. The rain that has hung over the region all week continued to fall Friday.
At least three people were killed and another was missing, and hundreds of people were forced to seek shelter up and down Colorado’s populated Front Range.
JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:
It's HERE AND NOW.
The flooding continues today in Colorado. Some areas have become unreachable and the National Guard is evacuating Lyons, Colorado. Joining us from Denver is Nathan Heffel, reporter for KUNC. Nathan, yesterday you joined us, you were able to go out, but today you've been told to stay put?
NATHAN HEFFEL, BYLINE: Yeah. Parts of Northern Colorado are experiencing and unprecedented flood event. You know, some weather experts have called this biblical flooding. The Colorado Department of Transportation said in certain counties where there is flooding - Boulder, Larimer counties (unintelligible) where Boulder and Fort Collins are, it's essential travel-only. And a SEDAC spokesperson told me that roads near rising water may look safe, but could be structurally unsound due to water saturations. So we're told not to drive unless we actually have to into those areas.
HOBSON: And how big is the affected area?
HEFFEL: It is a large part of Northern Colorado, anywhere from Fort Collins, all the way down to Denver. We experienced flooding and street closures and things in the city of Denver as well. So it's a wide part of Colorado.
HOBSON: Some people are comparing this to a big flood that took place in 1976 that had a lot of fatalities. Some of the communities now have been cut off for almost a day. What are emergency crews expecting?
HEFFEL: Well, we're not expecting anything as bad as 1976. That was the deadliest flood in Colorado history - 144 lives were lost, 150 people injured. You know, we're seeing emergency crews finally getting out to assess the damage as we've seen a break in the weather. Unfortunately, we have lost three people, and reports say there could be more missing. So crews are not taking a break just because we've seen a stop in the weather. Our emergency crews are out there assessing the damage to wide parts of Colorado.
HOBSON: Are you expecting more evacuations?
HEFFEL: We may. Again, with the break in the weather, we've seen that kind of lowdown for a while. But as rivers continue to be very, very high, that's always a possibility, because we're rain-soaked here in Colorado, and we just can't take anymore.
HOBSON: And what is the forecast right now for the next several days?
HEFFEL: Well, it's clearing up right now. There are peaks of sun across Denver and Northern Colorado. But again, (unintelligible) afternoon, another system moves in and rain - heavy rain is possible going into tomorrow afternoon, tomorrow evening. So we're not out of it anytime soon.
HOBSON: And just before we let you go, Nathan - Denver, explain. Is Denver really that affected? The metropolitan area of Denver, you can't get around?
HEFFEL: No, no, no. I don't want to make a point that we're not seeing that issue. There are definitely were some street closures with flooding and things like that as, you know, small streams that rose, but definitely Northern Colorado was more affected by this. And so travel to that area, from Denver, is just not advised. They want to make sure that emergency personnel have room to move around and aren't stuck in traffic trying to get to people who need it.
HOBSON: Nathan Heffel, reporter for KUNC, talking with us about the flooding in Colorado, thanks.
HEFFEL: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.