LYONS, Colo. — Gerald Guntle dials his sister's home multiple times a day, desperate to find out if she survived the widespread flooding that shattered the Rocky Mountain foothill town of Lyons, but the phone just rings and rings.
"If there was no phone service, I wouldn't expect to keep getting ringing. That's what has me scared," said the Tucson, Ariz., man, whose sister is among hundreds of people listed as missing in a disaster that is already believed to have killed as many as eight people.
Officials hope the number of missing will drop rapidly as communications are restored and people are evacuated throughout the region, as it did in Larimer and Boulder counties, where some 487 people dropped off missing-persons list over the weekend.
But faced with a lack of information, friends and relatives are struggling to avoid thoughts of worst-case scenarios.
In Estes Park, a tourist haven that serves as a first stop for many people entering Rocky Mountain National Park, Tony Bielat was searching for information about an elderly man who lives alone in nearby Glen Haven, where cabins and boulders washed down a swollen river.
"The problem is no one knows who has been rescued," Bielat said.
Officials were wading through the rubble in Glen Canyon on Monday, checking every structure in the town one by one.
Precise accounting of the missing remains elusive, with state and county agencies sometimes reporting conflicting totals. Colorado officials listed 1,253 people missing statewide at one point Monday and then updated it to just 658 later in the afternoon.
Most of the missing were in Larimer and Boulder counties, which lie north of Denver and are dotted with self-reliant mountain hamlets where privacy-conscious residents live in remote homes difficult to access even in ideal conditions.