With more rain in the forecast for the state’s hard-hit Front Range and weather conditions interfering with aerial rescue operations until Monday morning, communities across Colorado are still reeling from the state’s historic flooding — and bracing for more.
“It’s a little bit drier, but we’re definitely not out of the woods yet,” Todd Dankers, a forecaster with the National Weather Service, told the Denver Post.
The Associated Press reports portions of a 4,500-square-mile area were affected by raging flood waters, nearly the size of Connecticut, and more than a dozen counties have been declared disaster areas.
Here are some of the latest images and updates from the tragic event:
At least six people are believed to have died in the floods and 1,253 remain unaccounted for, according to the Denver Post. Gov. John Hickenlooper said he expected the death toll to rise as up to 17 helicopters resume searching for stranded residents on Monday.
As of Sunday evening, the Colorado Office of Emergency Management estimated that 17,494 homes have been damaged and 1,502 destroyed along a 200-mile stretch of the Front Range, but the numbers could change as the waters recede and emergency workers reach more isolated areas.
On Monday, Boulder officially broke its record for all-time annual precipitation, with overnight rainfall bringing the yearly total for precipitation to 30.13 inches. The city’s previous record for moisture in a single year was 29.93 inches, set in 1995. The 21.13 inches of rain that Boulder has received since last Monday is equivalent to 210 inches of snow, according to 7 News meteorologist Lisa Hidalgo.
As Andrew Freedman of Climate Central points out, “the record is especially noteworthy since before Sept. 9, Boulder, along with much of eastern Colorado, was still mired in long-term drought conditions.”
3,000 Colorado families have applied for federal assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said the agency isn’t ruling out temporary housing similar to that used in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to shelter some of the thousands of residents that have lost their homes.
The Colorado Department of Transportation reports 30 state bridges were destroyed by surging floodwaters and another 20 sustained significant damage, reported The Denver Channel. The damage to infrastructure and property is so severe, Hickenlooper said on Monday that it could take up to three weeks to determine a full estimate of the cost exacted by the devastating floods. Fugate said it could take a month.
While rescuers work around the clock to mitigate the loss of life and property, the danger of more flooding is still very real. Rain slowed to a drizzle along the Front Range on Monday morning, but the thunderstorms expected Monday afternoon in the mountains and foothills of northeastern Colorado resurrect the chance of more flash floods.
Even when the rain finally subsides, the risks to Colorado residents will be far from over. Along with extensive recovery and rebuilding efforts, Coloradans will be grappling with multiple public health threats, floodwaters overwhelming sewage systems, washed-out roads and water mains, and potential chemical contamination from thousands of flooded oil and gas wells.