BOULDER, Colo. — A monsoonal storm system that brought welcome cooler fall temperatures to Colorado became a deadly and destructive storm Wednesday night flooding homes, closing businesses and causing at least three deaths.
Residents in Boulder had no idea a foot of rain would fall on the city and the mountains to the west by Friday morning.
The rain overwhelmed the usually calm Boulder Creek, forcing the University of Colorado to evacuate about 355 people who live in residences near the creek.
At its peak, Boulder Creek was flowing at 16 times its normal rate for this time of year, city spokeswoman Sara Huntley said.
Elsewhere streets in Boulder turned to ponds trapping residents in their homes and stranding some drivers. Between 25 and 30 roads were closed Thursday afternoon in Boulder County.
Residents in the neighborhood around 7th Street and Arapahoe Avenue used boards to redirect flood waters away from their homes.
One death was confirmed and another feared after a car stopped in the rushing water. Witnesses reported a woman emerged from the car and was swept away by the water. A man left the car and tried to reach her and also was overcome, Boulder County Sheriff’s Cmdr. Heidi Prentup said. She said the man’s body had been recovered, while the woman was missing.
Bodies also were found in a collapsed home in Jamestown and on a roadway in Colorado Springs.
Governor John Hickenlooper approved a disaster declaration for several areas and announced that two National Guard Black Hawk helicopter search-and-rescue crews were sent to Boulder County, along with three swiftwater rescue teams and emergency managers.
Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle urged the rest of Boulder County’s 305,000 residents to stay home.
“This is no day to travel,” he said. “It’s a good day to hunker down and watch the news and find out what’s going on.”
City services, schools, courts and many businesses were closed Thursday and would do the same Friday.
The University of Colorado said its campus would be closed Friday after about 25 percent of the building on the campus suffered some form of damage.
Three dorms were flooded displacing about 20 students.
The school said however that it still expected to hold a Saturday football game against Fresno State.
An area where homeless people often camp just south of the campus near Skunk Creek was under 5 feet of water Thursday, graduate student Alan Smith said.
He described water pouring down bike paths and out of drainpipes.
“It’s really cool to see these conduits spewing out water from the base of these buildings,” Smith said. “It’s like a Super Soaker. They’re spewing water several feet away.”