"The most terrifying thing was when I climbed up on that cliff and looked down," she said. The water had carried cars as if they were toys.
"I was so afraid that I was going to die, that water came so fast."
The dayslong rush of water from higher ground turned towns on Colorado's expansive eastern plains into muddy swamps. Crews used inflatable boats to rescue families and pets from stranded farmhouses. Some evacuees on horseback had to be escorted to safe ground.
The city of Boulder reported late Friday that the rushing waters had caused "a significant breach in its main wastewater pipeline" to the treatment plant, but officials said it would not affect drinking water.
Near Greeley, some 35 miles east of the foothills, broad swaths of farmland had become lakes, and the raging South Platte and Poudre rivers led to rescues of stranded residents late into the night, the Greeley Tribune reported.
Hundreds of roads were closed or damaged by floodwaters, and a 70-mile stretch of Interstate 25 was closed from Denver to the Wyoming line.
Rocky Mountain National Park closed Friday, its visitors forced to leave via the 60-mile Trail Ridge Road to the west side of the Rockies.
It will be weeks, if not months, before a semblance of normalcy returns to Lyons, a gateway community to the park. The town, surrounded by sandstone cliffs whose color was reflected in the raging St. Vrain River, consisted of six islands Friday as residents barbecued their food before it spoiled. Several people set up a tent camp on a hill.
Some 2,500 residents were being evacuated from Lyons, but Hilary Clark was left walking around her neighborhood Friday.
Two bridges that led into the area were washed away. Unlike other parts of Lyons that had been reached by the National Guard in high clearance trucks, no such help had arrived for Clark.
"We're surviving on what we got," she said. "Some of us have ponds in our backyard, and we're using that water and boiling it."
Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said recovery would be long and expensive — similar to wildfires the state is more familiar with.
"Please be patient," he said. "This is an unprecedented event."
Neary reported from Longmont.
Associated Press writers David Martin in Boulder, Mead Gruver in Fort Collins, and Colleen Slevin and Thomas Peipert in Denver contributed to this report.
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