A man photographs the flooding in the underpass at Boulder Creek and Broadway Street in Boulder, Colo. Cliff Grassmick, The (Boulder) Daily Camera via AP
(USA TODAY) -- The rain finally ceased, and the sun shone Monday over Colorado's
Front Range, providing a welcome respite for a state that has been
ravaged by floodwaters since heavy rains fell last Wednesday.
operations to rescue stranded residents of small mountain towns with
damaged or destroyed roads resumed after being halted Sunday by poor
weather. Preliminary reports show that about 1,500 homes have been
destroyed and 15,994 homes damaged, according to Micki Trost, a
spokeswoman for the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency
HOW YOU CAN HELP: HelpColoradoNow.org
The number of people unaccounted for has dropped from
more than 1,200 on Sunday to 648, and seven have been killed in the
floods, Trost said.
Some rain-drenched Colorado residents see a
bright side to the disaster that has darkened the lives of many on the
eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains from Canon City in the south to
Fort Collins in the north.
Oscar award-winner Louie Psihoyos saw
chairs and furniture in his flooded basement in Boulder, Colo., float
near the ceiling, and the original tapes of his Oscar-winning
documentary ruined, but he had tears of happiness in his eyes.
20 Boulder residents responded to his Facebook post for help, and many
worked all day Saturday removing water and mud and trying to salvage his
belongings. One resident, Doug La Farge, brought vegan sushi to feed
everyone during an impromptu picnic in the driveway.
"It was one
of the best things to happen to my sense of community in this city,"
said Psihoyos, who directed and appeared in the Oscar-winning
documentary The Cove in 2009.
"It made me realize that when people start to work together, they can really solve some big issues."
Psihoyos, the executive director of the Oceanic Preservation Society and a former National Geographic photographer,
said the flooding, among other things, destroyed artwork, photographs
he took during the past 45 years, family memorabilia, computers and
Psihoyos said he and some neighbors walked
about a quarter mile from his house and noticed the source of the water -
a hole in a wall of a drainage ditch. They built a makeshift dike with
sand, rocks, tarp and a mattress and stopped the water flooding the
downtown Boulder neighborhood.
In the mountains, about 15 miles
northwest of Psihoyos' home, 68 students, primarily fifth-graders, and
four teachers on an overnight trip were stranded near flood-ravaged
Jamestown, said Scott Miller, whose 10-year-old son, Owen, was one of
The fifth-graders left from a Denver public school,
University Park Elementary, on Wednesday and were scheduled to spend one
night at an outdoor education center.
Heavy rain and floods hit
the Jamestown area, destroying roads in Lefthand and James canyons,
which provide access down to Boulder, Miller said. Power was lost, and
the school group had to stay at the center until they were rescued
Saturday, he said.
"The only communication was a single
solar-powered two-way radio, so the information flow to parents was very
limited," Miller said.
Fortunately, there was food and water at
the center. On Saturday afternoon, the group was evacuated by the
National Guard with Chinook helicopters.
"Owen is home safe now,"
Miller said. "He says he really enjoyed the extended adventure - it was a
bonding experience for his class - and the helicopter ride was
About 17 miles north of Boulder in Lyons, a small town
that residents say was split in half by floodwaters, elementary school
teacher Debbie Simms said she saw a barn floating down a street.
said she also stood on the deck of her home overlooking Planet
Bluegrass, the site of two popular music festivals each summer, and
watched the floodwaters devastate the site and fill a nearby trailer
park "like a bathtub."
She said the North St. Vrain River flowing
by the festival grounds is usually relatively narrow and shin to
knee-deep in the fall, but she watched it transform into "a big ocean"
that overwhelmed the grounds..
Craig Ferguson, who owns the
property and runs the music festivals, said he received a call to
evacuate from his home after midnight Thursday. He said he stepped out
into four inches of water.
After spending the rest of the night
with his children at a home on high ground, he decided to go back to his
home to rescue his dogs. He said the North St. Vrain River it is
usually five or so yards wide, but it had become about 400 yards wide.
walked through floodwaters holding an inner tube to reach his stone
house, which was filled with "wall-to-wall" mud. He spent the night with
his dogs in the house on "an island" with floodwaters outside.
"I never felt my life was in danger," Ferguson said.
Floodwaters, he said, flipped over his BMW. It is "upside down in the mud," and "you can barely see the wheels," he said.
waded and his dogs swam across floodwaters during his second
evacuation. The harrowing experience hasn't dampened his spirits.
anybody cares to come to the bluegrass festival next summer, they'll be
amazed how quickly we can turn it around," Ferguson said. "A festival
will happen next July."