The Herald Bulletin

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September 13, 2013

Stranded residents plucked from Colorado floodwaters

LYONS, Colo. — By truck and helicopter, thousands of people stranded by floodwaters came down from the Colorado Rockies on Friday, two days after seemingly endless rain turned normally scenic rivers and creeks into coffee-colored rapids that wrecked scores of roads and wiped out neighborhoods.

Authorities aimed to evacuate 2,500 people from the isolated mountain community of Lyons by the end of the day, either by National Guard convoys or airlifts.

One of them, Mary Hemme, recalled hearing sirens going off in the middle of the night and her husband saying they needed to leave. They stepped outside their trailer and into rushing water that nearly reached their knees.

She got in her car and tried to drive away.

"But I only got so far, because the river was rushing at me, so I threw it in reverse as fast as I could," Hemme said. "I was so afraid that I was going to die, that water came so fast."

Others were less fortunate. The body of a woman who had been swept away was found Friday near Boulder, raising the death toll to four.

National Guard troops aided by a break in the weather started airlifting 295 residents from the small community of Jamestown, which has been cut off and without power or water for more than a day.

Dean Hollenbaugh, 79, decided to take one of the helicopters after officials warned electricity and water could be disrupted for weeks.

"Essentially, what they were threatening us with is 'if you stay here, you may be here for a month,'" Hollenbaugh said as he waited for his son to pick him up from the Boulder airport. "I felt I was OK. I mean I've camped in the mountains for a week at a time."

Airlifts also were taking place to the east in Larimer County for people with special medical needs.

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