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After the floods, a ‘stronger’ Colorado

Officials turn to rebuilding infrastructure as search for missing continues

- The Washington Times - Monday, September 16, 2013

DENVER | Colorado officials drew inspiration from the Denver Broncos as they vowed Monday to rebuild the state's infrastructure better than it was after epic flooding destroyed homes, roads and bridges along the heavily populated Front Range.

At a news conference Monday, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator W. Craig Fugate and the congressional delegation presented a unified front as they outlined plans to start immediately on the recovery process, even as rescuers continue to search for unaccounted-for residents.

"I think it's clear that there's no 'I' in Colorado, that we are truly going to rebuild better and stronger," said Sen. Mark Udall, Colorado Democrat.

Referring to Mr. Fugate, he said, "What I hear you saying to all of us is, 'Let's not hurry but let's be quick.' When I think of Peyton Manning, and the performance he put on and the Broncos put on yesterday in New York, that's how Peyton Manning plays, that's how we're going to respond to what happened here in Colorado," said Mr. Udall, referring to the Broncos victory over the New York Giants on Sunday.

Mr. Hickenlooper said he expects the state to "come out of this situation with a stronger infrastructure."

"We recognize a lot of these bridges and culverts and roadways were built a long time ago, and design standards weren't the same, our understanding of flood events wasn't the same," said the Democratic governor. "I think we have a strong opportunity here with FEMA's partnership to come out of this whole situation with a stronger infrastructure."

Six people are presumed dead while 1,253 were listed Sunday as unaccounted for as rescuers continued Monday to comb flood-ravaged communities along a 200-mile stretch of the Front Range.

After six days of rain, however, Monday's warmer, sunnier weather brought with it some good news. The clearer skies allowed air and ground rescue efforts to ramp up, while communities like Longmont were able to lift their evacuation orders.

At the same time, Rep. Cory Gardner, Colorado Republican, warned that some regions are only now being hit by floodwaters moving down toward the foothills from the Rocky Mountains.

"This isn't over. As we speak, there's flooding occurring in Sterling, Colo., the water is moving down toward Julesberg," said Mr. Gardner. "Let's not forget that as part of that damage that's occurring, part of the people being evacuated — it's happening at this very moment."

Scattered thundershowers in the mountains and foothills prompted the National Weather Service to issue flash-flood warnings Monday for Boulder, El Paso and Teller counties. Still, there were signs of life returning to normal in Boulder, one of the hardest-hit communities, as classes resumed at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Nearly 19,000 residences have been damaged or destroyed by the flooding, while about 12,000 people were forced to evacuate their communities during the deluge.

Mr. Fugate urged Coloradans affected by the flooding to contact FEMA, adding that 3,000 families have already applied for disaster relief. President Obama declared a state of emergency for Colorado over the weekend.

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