Biden tours flood damage, says gov’t help won’t stop despite threat of shutdown

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GREELEY, Colo. -- After touring damage from Colorado's devastating floods by helicopter Monday, Vice President Joe Biden promised flood victims that even a possible government shutdown won't stop the flow of federal aid.

"It's probably going to scare the living daylights out of you," Biden said, flanked by two GOP congressman from Colorado, Yuma's Cory Gardner and Aurora's Mike Coffman, who voted last Friday for a proposal tying government funding to the de-funding of President Obama's landmark health care law -- a proposal that won't be approved by the Senate but could bring Congress closer to the brink of a complete shutdown.

"There's reason to be scared, but not in terms of disaster relief," he continued. "I don't want folks that are here in shelters or watching on TV seeing the dysfunction in Congress and thinking that all, all the relief efforts are gonna shut down. They will not shut down even if the Congress doesn't fund the federal government in a continuing resolution."

Biden traveled to Colorado Monday to view the damage of last week's flood and recovery efforts already underway.

Along with Boulder congressman Jared Polis, Rep. Mike Coffman and Gov. John Hickenlooper, Biden toured some of the hardest hit areas in a Blackhawk helicopter.

Taking off from Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, the chopper headed west to the foothills, first following Left Hand Canyon up to Jamestown, which was destroyed by a wall of mud that flowed down during the first night of flooding.

The helicopters looped back and up U.S. 36 to Lyons, which was stranded when North St. Vrain and South St. Vrain creeks broke from their banks. Water has begun to subside in North St. Vrain Canyon, revealing places where water washed away lanes of U.S. 36 and in some places, the entire road.

From there, the helicopters flew to Estes Park and down Big Thompson Canyon, where U.S. 34 is a patch work of damaged and destroyed highway.

The tour also took Biden over big forest fire burn zones in Boulder and Larimer counties.

"We were in the air for about an hour, touring the devastation, and it is devastation," Biden said.

Biden thanked volunteers including those from the Red Cross and FEMA who set up what he called "one stop shopping" for recovery assistance.

To make a claim: Call FEMA at 1-800-621-3362 or visit disasterassistance.gov.

He also vowed that "none of the federal assistance that we are providing, none of it, is going to be impacted even if there is a government shutdown," referring to the possibility of a government shutdown.

The flooding caused by the storm Sept. 18-20th caused widespread damage. It destroyed nearly 1,800 homes and damaged about 16,000 others. Officials have said  200 miles of roads were damaged as well as 50 bridges.

The risk modeling firm Eqecat estimated that the total economic damage caused by the storm will be $2 billion.

The estimate includes damage to homes and roads, lodging expenses for displaced people and the cost of restoring services, Eqecat said in a statement last week.

Monday, officials in the plains town of Sterling announced they lifted a NO flush, Limited Water Use order that had been in effect since last week.

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