LONGMONT, Colo. — As major flooding continued across Colorado, the National Guard was evacuating at least 500 people from Lyons, north of Denver, on Friday after the town was cut off by rising floodwaters.
Sheets of rain were falling as gray clouds rolled in from the Rockies to the west, and officials were bracing for more rain later in the day. The National Weather Service issued a flood warning for the area until Friday evening. The area has received about 15 inches of rain, according to the Weather Service, and additional rain may cause renewed flooding in areas where the water has receded.
Thousands of people were also urged to evacuate homes in Boulder and nearby Eldorado Springs and Longmont late Thursday. At least three people have been killed in the flash floods.
City officials sounded flood sirens in Boulder on Thursday night and asked residents of about 4,000 homes along Boulder Canyon to evacuate immediately. Another alert was sent to about 4,000 homes urging residents to move to upper floors of buildings if possible.
Some of the worst flooding occurred in Lyons, a small town about 40 miles north of Denver. A convoy of yellow school buses carrying evacuees from Lyons began arriving at the LifeBridge Christian Church in Longmont on Friday morning.
Abe Mares and his roommate, Nathan Williams, were among the hundreds of evacuees arriving at the church. Early Thursday, water from the St. Vrain River came gushing through the door of their home in Lyons.
They hauled their belongings into their cars but decided to wait out the storm on the second floor of their home. When they awoke Thursday morning, the home was surrounded by a huge tide of river water. That afternoon, when the flooding receded for a moment, they waded through the water and spent the night at a local elementary school.
“It was up to our hips and moving really, really fast,” Mares said of their escape. “It was very intense and very scary. The whole town was flooded.”
At a news conference Friday morning, Gov. John Hickenlooper said the flooding was among the worst in the state’s history and thanked President Barack Obama for approving a request for federal disaster aid. The main focus for emergency workers Friday was to evacuate residents from the hardest-hit areas, he said.
“Those evacuations are the highest priority,” he told reporters.
He asked residents to stay off flooded roads and to avoid walking near the floodwaters.