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 Monday press conference, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator 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.”
Mr. Hickenlooper said he expects the state to “come out with a stronger infrastructure than those storms found us.”
“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 Mr. Hickenlooper. “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 such as 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,” Mr. Gardner said. “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.
Schools remained closed Monday in a half-dozen large public school districts in and near Boulder and Weld counties, including Boulder Valley, Greeley-Evans, St. Vrain and Weld school districts. Officials at St. Vrain said they do not expect to resume classes until Thursday because of road damage and power outages.
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 already have applied for disaster relief. President Obama declared a state of emergency for Colorado over the weekend.
“That is your first step other than letting people know you’re safe, your family is safe, letting people know you’re OK,” Mr. Fugate said. “So we can take the large numbers out there of people that are still unaccounted for, and we can start reconciling that people are OK, they just haven’t checked in with us. Just let people know you’re OK so the governor’s team can focus on the folks [they] need to go find.”