Utah crew poised to search flood-ravaged areas as part of Colorado rescue effort

About 1,200 stranded from flooding rescued by helicopters, troops

Published: Saturday, Sept. 14 2013 12:35 p.m. MDT

One of the people rescued was a pregnant woman whose due date was this weekend. She was airlifted out of Lyons Friday during the day, and her water broke that night.

"There are some personal stories coming out of this that makes all of this very, very rewarding," Pelle said.

Three people were confirmed dead in Boulder County as of Saturday, the sheriff said. Statewide, there were reports of five dead from the flooding. Pelle hoped that number wouldn't go up, but couldn't say for sure how things would turn out.

"I'm hopeful, I pray that that's all there is. The cautionary note is this: we have not begun to search collapsed structures, debris piles and wash-outs where we would likely find human remains. And so, I don't want to be pessimistic, but I also want to be realistic about the probability that we will find others. I pray not, hope not. But that's the reality of the situation," he said.

The members of Utah Task Force 1 were anxious and prepared to perform those difficult searches Saturday. Instead, the Utah crew was given a quick course on how to perform hoist operations in the helicopters provided by the National Guard and other training.

But task force commander Keith Bevan said the priority of all the available helicopters on Saturday was to find survivors.

"Our priority right now is if you have people who need to be removed from these areas, you spend all of your resource time getting them out. It's difficult to explain if you send someone up to search an area where you think there might be someone versus someone who is standing there waving you down," he said.

Some members of Utah Task Force 1 did see some action Saturday. Dr. Laura McClain is the Task Force's veterinarian. She was called to treat a Coonhound that was rescued along with its owners. The dog had suffered a deep cut in the flooding debris that needed attention.

The task force, part of the Utah Urban Search and Rescue Team, consists of firefighters and paramedics from the Unified Fire Authority, Salt Lake City Fire Department and Park City Fire District.

The estimated number of people still unaccounted for in the flooded areas of Colorado was estimated at between 180 and 200. Pelle stressed that doesn't necessarily mean they are all missing. But family members had not been able to get in contact with them, either because phone and Internet service in the area was down or access to the area was cut off.

In the city of Boulder, conditions were dry Friday afternoon and Saturday during the day, allowing water in some of the flooded areas to recede. But the damage to some homes, roads and bridges will take weeks and even months to clean up and repair, according to city officials.

"This is probably a 1-in-1,000-year, or even less likely, storm," Boulder Mayor Matt Applebaum said Saturday.

The city knew it was prone to possible flash flooding, and had been preparing for many years for such a possibility.

"It's difficult to plan for something of this magnitude that affects every single drainage in the entire city," Applebaum said.

The campus of the University of Colorado remained closed Saturday and the school's football game was even cancelled.

Boulder County officials late Saturday announced that an estimated 120 to 150 miles of road needed to be repaired along with 20 to 30 bridges. The county estimated it would cost approximately $150 million to do that, or 10 to 15 times their annual budget. The county said it was hoping for a lot of private and government assistance.

Pelle urged residents to be patient because the county was not going to go back to normal once the rain stops falling.

"Our normal has changed for awhile," he said. "This is a huge deal and it's going to take awhile to get back to normal."

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