DENVER - Military helicopters flew evacuation missions in Boulder and Larimer counties Monday afternoon, after being grounded by inclement weather in the morning and on Sunday.
The fleet of 21 helicopters have come from the Colorado National Guard, Wyoming National Guard and Fort Carson. All were able to resume their missions by 12:05 p.m., the Colorado National Guard reported.
As of 9:30 a.m. Monday, the Guard reported military assets had evacuated more than 2,200 people and over 500 pets since rescue operations began.
In Larimer County alone, where 1,120 square miles are estimated to be impacted by flooding, approximately 1,000 residents remained to be evacuated Monday morning. Thirteen military helicopters and three civilian helicopters worked in that area throughout the day.
The Larimer County Sheriff's Office said 336 people had been evacuated as of 7:45 p.m. Monday.
In Boulder County, 215 people and 115 pets were rescued Monday by U.S. Army helicopters from the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson. Another 11 residents were evacuated by vehicles.
Courtney Gilliam recalled, "People crying, leaving their home behind," as the big Chinook choppers lifted off to ferry families to a Boulder evacuation shelter.
Yet, her husband, Sean Gilliam, also spoke of neighbors banding together to survive being cutoff by flood waters.
"Quite impressive, just to see how the community worked together to share food, other resources and communication, and just making sure everybody's OK," said Sean Gilliam, who lives with Courtney in the Larimer County community of Pinewood Springs.
Army chopper crew members talked about the satisfaction of helping fellow Americans overcome disaster.
"It's one of the most gratifying things you'll ever do, is help out on U.S. soil," one soldier said.
7NEWS was live on the air as Chinook helicopters returned from their first evacuation missions of the day. Each flight is capable of carrying more than two dozen people.
Boulder County recommends residents stranded in flood areas should signal helicopters passing overhead by:
- Waving a large, light-colored cloth or sheet
- Placing a large, light-colored cloth or sheet on the roof of the house
- Waving flares
- Using mirrors to reflect/flash sunlight
- Lighting safe/controlled signal fires
Residents who require evacuation by helicopter are asked to have a "go-bag" prepared to take with them that contains any medications, clothes and/or other necessary items
Everyone should stand a safe distance away from where the helicopter will be landing. Rescue personnel will signal residents when it is safe to approach the aircraft.