In Flooded Colorado, Rescue Amid The Rain

Hundreds of people have been evacuated from flooded areas of Colorado, which on Saturday saw a brief break in heavy rain. But with more rain in the forecast, lives and homes remain in danger.

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JACKI LYDEN, HOST:

If you're just joining us, it's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden.

In Colorado, the scope of the destruction from days of torrential rains and flooding is emerging. Rescue crews and the National Guard are still evacuating people stranded by floodwaters as officials work to account for many who are still missing. At least four people are confirmed dead. More rain is forecast for today and tomorrow.

NPR's Kirk Siegler is in Longmont, Colorado, which is 40 miles northwest of Denver. Hello there, Kirk.

KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: Hi, Jacki.

LYDEN: Tell us where you are and what's going on.

SIEGLER: I'm outside a Salvation Army shelter in downtown Longmont. This is close to some of the hardest-hit areas by these floods. You know, all that rain that started falling in this region on Wednesday up in the mountains, it pools up atop those steep canyon walls, it comes crashing down and into the creeks and rivers, which spill out into places like this. In the neighborhoods on the west side of town, it literally smells like a swamp. There is standing water everywhere.

You know, this is high desert country, but it's weirdly humid right now. The St. Vrain River running through this city has completely overflowed its banks in places. A lot of devastation.

LYDEN: Kirk, I understand that you spoke to some people who've had to evacuate. What do they tell you?

SIEGLER: I just spoke with Jeannie(ph) and Gary Evans who live down in an apartment complex for senior citizens right by that St. Vrain River.

JEANNIE EVANS: ...got some clothes. We snuck in and got some clothes, but you ain't going to be able to live there for quite a while.

GARY EVANS: We found temporary housing up at Loveland.

SIEGLER: Loveland is about 30 miles north of here. Now, their neighbor Gilbert Strait(ph) hasn't been as lucky.

GILBERT STRAIT: Waiting around to see what happens next. Hope that FEMA can help us or somebody, because we have no place to stay.

LYDEN: Kirk, the search and rescue efforts are still ongoing, probably will be for a long time. Give us an update on that.

SIEGLER: Yes. Jacki, you know, given the terrain and the fact that parts of whole roads have been completely wiped out up in the mountains above us, a lot of the search and rescue has been taking place by air. This is being described as in historic rescue operation, people stranded on rooftops, others next to raging rivers. The National Guard has taken advantage of a break in the rain to start scooping up hundreds of people and bring them down here to safety.

A lot of attention here locally is on the town of Lyons, which is about 12 miles up the road from Longmont. Several thousand people have been stranded there since Wednesday night. You know, I've been hearing from folks who are up there shoveling out mud and debris from their living rooms and salvaging what they can, if their home is even still standing.

LYDEN: Kirk, we know that a lot of it has been declared a federal disaster area. It's an epic event. What are people expecting in terms of help?

SIEGLER: Well, as you said, the federal government is going to be bringing in resources to help, you know, tens of thousands of people. Take the Boulder area. They've gotten 14 inches of rain in this storm so far. You know, for some perspective, in a good year, they might get 20 inches of precipitation, and, you know, that includes snowfall. So this place is completely overwhelmed - water everywhere, roads, homes destroyed, major highways shut down.

And a lot of the concern right now is shifting toward the small farming towns out along the plains east of here. All that water is now flowing out in that direction and spilling over diversion dams and reservoirs. You know, very much still an unfolding situation here.

LYDEN: That's NPR's Kirk Siegler speaking with us from Longmont, Colorado. Kirk, thank you.

SIEGLER: Glad to do it.

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