LYONS, Colo. (AP) - At least three people are dead, and some Colorado mountain communities have been left isolated, after heavy rain sent walls of water crashing down mountainsides early today. The flooding struck areas near where the terrain had been scarred by recent wildfires.
Boulder County was hit the hardest, with up to 6 inches of rain falling over 12 hours. But flooding was reported from Colorado Springs to north of Fort Collins.
The National Weather Service warned of an "extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation" as the flooding forced people from their homes and caused mud and rockslides.
Crews have been struggling to reach the mountain community of Jamestown, northwest of Boulder, where authorities say one person was killed when a structure collapsed. Another person was found dead in northern Boulder. And police conducting flood patrols in Colorado Springs found a body in a creek.
About 400 students in a dorm at the University of Colorado in Boulder were evacuated and classes were canceled today and tomorrow because of the flooding.
This is what AP reporters on the scene Thursday are learning about the unfolding events:
4:20 p.m. MDT
A National Guard Blackhawk helicopter and other first responders have been dispatched to southeastern New Mexico to help evacuate dozens of campers stranded by floodwaters along the Pecos River.
Three high-clearance, armored vehicles are heading out to the mountain community of Lyons, where residents have been trapped by flooded roads. The Red Cross says about 200 people have taken shelter in a school there.
2:03 p.m. MDT
No Coast Guard helicopters are coming to landlocked Colorado after all. Gov. John Hickenlooper has retracted a tweet announcing that the choppers were dispatched to help with flooding. National Guard rescue helicopters based in the state have been grounded by low visibility.
1:25 p.m. MDT
Access to the mountain community of Lyons has been completely cut off because of flooding and residents are hunkering down at higher ground. Despite all the water, residents are being told to only drink bottled or boiled water because of a possible breach of the town's water system.
1:15 p.m. MDT
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning was slinging passes with a glove on his throwing hand as rain came down at the team's practice center in Englewood, Colo. The Broncos have a nearby indoor training facility for bad weather, but practiced on the turf as they prepare for the Giants in New York on Sunday.
12:37 p.m. MDT
In rural Morgan County, fire authorities urged ranchers to move cattle to higher ground as mountain rains emptied onto the plains.
11:57 a.m. MDT
The Boulder County Sheriff's office is telling people to shelter in place rather than evacuate, because more people are injured in their cars. "Stay home or if they're in danger climb to higher ground," said Cmdr. Heidi Prentup. Many area roads are closed.
Dave Finn, who lives near Niwot northwest of Boulder, said he had to knock down a fence to release water that had backed up behind it. He said he destroyed his fence to save his house.
"I've never seen it like this. You know, we sort of roll our eyes when they say you have to be prepared for the 100-year flood, so here we are,'" he said.
Heavy rainfall is forecast throughout much of central and northern New Mexico through the weekend, with the possibility of flash flooding.
National Weather Service meteorologist Kerry Jones says it's likely some areas could see 6 to 10 inches of rain through the weekend.
Some of Thursday's flooding was exacerbated by wildfire burn scars that have spawned flash floods up and down Colorado's Front Range this summer. That was particularly true in an area surrounding Jamestown scarred by the Fourmile Fire in 2010, and an area near Waldo Canyon in Colorado Springs to the south, which was hit in 2012.
"This is not an ordinary day, it is not an ordinary disaster. All the preparation in the world...it can't put people up those canyons while these walls of water are coming down," Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said.
Rain showers and thunderstorms were expected through Thursday, with possible spot storms capable of dumping an inch of water within a half-hour, the weather service warned.
At a news conference, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said National Guard helicopters are on standby, but they have been grounded because of continuing rain.
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