State OEM reduces fatalities to 6, residents dig lives out of mud
LONGMONT, Colo. — The State Office of Emergency Management revised the number of fatalities associated with the Colorado Flood to six Tuesday evening.
Two people who are missing and were considered likely dead in Larimer County are now being classified as just missing, the OEM said in a message on their website.
The number of missing people in the 17 counties affected by last week’s massive downpour continues to fluctuate as more and more people are plucked from homes cut off by last week’s flooding
The National Guard has said it believes the air rescues are its largest effort since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
However, about 600 people are stranded in isolated areas of Larimer County, and rescue crews continued working to evacuate as many as possible Tuesday, authorities said. The week’s weather outlook looked favorable for crews, and forecasts called for only slight chances of afternoon storm mid-week, officials said.
“At this point the mission is getting folks down off the mountain, getting them down safely,” said Nick Christensen, executive officer of the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office.
Authorities continued checking on residences Tuesday for any occupants, Smith said.
“We have significant air resources up,” he added.
The numbers of people unaccounted for during the height of the bad weather dropped again Tuesday, with Boulder County reducing its count to 183 and Larimer County dropping its figure to 197. Most of the people on the unaccounted list are likely alive and well but have failed to check in with authorities to let them know.
One of those missing is Gerry Boland. His wife of 54 years, Cheronn, said he went missing Thursday.
“We were sleeping and the sirens and speakers came up,” Cheron said.
Cheron got in her car. Gerry got in his truck. They were in the process of driving to their oldest daughter’s house in Longmont, but somewhere along the way, they were split up. Cheron spent four hours waiting for her husband before getting stuck in flood waters herself. She was rescued by heroes using a backhoe.
The last time anyone saw Gerry was early Thursday morning at the evacuation center in Lyons Elementary School.
“We’ve heard that he was the only one who knew how to turn the lights on in the big building,” Gerry’s daughter Amy Hoh said. “He got the lights on for everybody.”
Initial estimates show approximately 1,500 residential homes in Larimer County have been destroyed with an expected number of 4,500 homes damaged.
At last count, 126 homes were destroyed in Boulder County.
“We’re so lucky compared to the people in Lyons or people who have left their houses in the mountains — people who live on the dirt roads that don’t have access to their houses,” said Boulder resident Marry Allen.
Xcel Energy said the damaged to power and natural gas lines was an “unprecedented situation.”
“We are working with a strong sense of urgency as temperatures begin to dip, especially in mountain areas,” said spokesperson Gabriel Romero. “Restoring service after this disaster is definitely not business as usual for us.”
As of Tuesday morning 4,600 customers, mainly in Boulder County and Lyons, were without gas service. Xcel said 517 customers were without electricity, 275 in Boulder and 242 in Greeley.
Some areas made progress in cleanup, while others got a chance to see their homes for the first time.
Residents of Lyons lined up outside the LifeBridge Church in Longmont go get passes to go back into the areas outside of town for a few hours to collect essential items.
A message board outside the church was filled with messages of evacuees trying to reconnect with loved ones.
“Hi mom. I’m in Longmont. Please call me. I miss you,” said one message from Karen.
“You really do in a split second get a life lesson on what’s important,” said Wanda Juzefczyk. “It’s your family and your friends. All the material stuff really means nothing when it comes to life.”
People are in a mode of asking “what’s next” said Pastor Rick Rusaw.
Some worry about flooded oil, gas fields
The Colorado Oil and Gas Association said 1,900 wells have been shut down because of flooding.
The association launched a website Tuesday to engage citizens looking to report or track possible problems.
Simultaneously, some 600 inspectors are surveying wells in the flood zone by air, land and, in many cases, boats.
“As flood waters recede, we will be continuing to take inventory of situations and respond to them immediately,” said Tisha Schuler, COGA’s CEO who herself took part in a Twitter Q&A session Tuesday aiming to answer questions about the industry’s response.
But many concerned residents, especially those who are already opposed to further oil and gas development along the northern Front Range, aren’t easily mollified, not with myriad pictures of flooded oil and gas installations popping up online.
“I think the public just needs to be aware there is a danger there,” said Carl Erickson with the citizens group, Weld County Air and Water. “People need to know — there are oil and gas products in the water that is flowing through your town.