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Grim scene in Colorado flood zone; little relief yet

Sep 15, 2013 - The Associated Press

LYONS, Colo. -- As rescuers broke through to flood-ravaged Colorado towns, they issued a stern warning Saturday to anyone thinking of staying behind: Leave now or be prepared to endure weeks without electricity, running water and basic supplies.

National Guard helicopters and truck convoys carried the admonition into paralyzed canyon communities where thousands of stranded residents were eager to escape the Rocky Mountain foothills. But not everybody was willing to go. Dozens of people in the isolated community of Jamestown wanted to stay to watch over their homes.

Authorities made clear that residents who chose not to leave might not get another chance for a while.

"We're not trying to force anyone from their home. We're not trying to be forceful, but we're trying to be very factual and definitive about the consequences of their decision, and we hope that they will come down," Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said.

Across the foothills, rescuers made progress against the floodwaters. But they were still unable to go up many narrow canyon roads that were either underwater or washed out.

On Saturday, the surge of water reached the plains east of the mountains, cutting off more communities and diverting some rescue operations.

Hundreds of people still have not been heard from in the flood zone, which expanded to cover portions of an area nearly the size of Connecticut. Some people may still be stranded. Others may have gotten out but not contacted friends and relatives.

Officials believed some were probably injured, and they expected to find more bodies.

A woman was missing and presumed dead after witnesses saw floodwaters from the Big Thompson River destroy her home in the Cedar Cove area, Larimer County sheriff's spokesman John Schulz said.

"I expect that we're going to continue to receive reports of confirmed missing and confirmed fatalities throughout the next several days," he said.

The military put more troops on the ground and helicopters in the air to aid in the search-and-rescue effort. More rain was in the forecast.

By midday Saturday, nearly 800 people and their pets had been evacuated, National Guard Master Sgt. Cheresa Theiral said.

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