Several Colorado communities entered red-flag, near-panic mode early Friday, as the National Guard began evacuating the entire town of Lyons, and high-mobility vehicles were sent to relocate nearly 2,000 people to safety.
Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle told CNN that the “devastating storm” has dumped at least 6 inches of rainwater on the area in the last 19 hours, and forecasts for the near future weren’t much better.
A 30-foot deep “surge of water, mud, rocks and debris” was making its way toward the boundary lines of the city, and area residents were ordered to seek out higher ground, one official said, in an NBC report. A witness reported the surge around the midnight hour, and told Boulder Office of Emergency Management that the water appeared to be sweeping up cars and carrying them along.
The National Weather Service, meanwhile, said the surge was “potentially life threatening,” NBC said.
At least 4,000 residents were ordered to leave, and another 4,000 given a strong recommendation to find temporary shelter.
The past day’s flooding left three dead, NBC reported.
“This … is not an ordinary disaster,” Sheriff Pelle said, in reference to walls of water that were tearing at mountainsides and canyons, The Associated Press reported. “All the preparations in the world … can’t put people up those canyons while these walls of water are coming down.”