Colorado Flood: Boulder Creek hit by surge of water, debris from Fourmile burn area

BOULDER, Colo. - Boulder's police chief says things are looking better hours after city officials sent notice to about 4,000 people living along Boulder Creek to leave their homes. Chief Mark Beckner said this morning the creek has dropped from its peak flow.

At 6:10 a.m., 7NEWS reporter Tyler Lopez reported Boulder Creek was just inches from the top of the Broadway Bridge. He described the creek as "a raging river now."

The surge was forecast to reach Boulder Creek at about midnight, causing a flash flood, according to an earlier alert from the Boulder Office of Emergency Management.  The surge, first reported as 30 feet high by a spotter in Emerson Gulch, had flattened to 7 feet, according to Boulder public information spokeswoman Sarah Huntley. The water took out flood sensors further up in Boulder Creek so officials didn't have a good visual on it.

Huntley said the creek was running at about 4,000 cubic feet per second  when it normally runs about 200 cubic feet per second. By 2:30 a.m. the flow of water in Boulder Creek had reached 3,400 cfs.

Because of the earlier threat, the city of Boulder sounded flood sirens at 10 p.m. and sent out emergency notifications to a total of about 8,000 telephone numbers in two separate areas along Boulder Creek.

The first message urged individuals from the mouth of Boulder Canyon to Broadway as west and east boundaries, and within Pearl and Marine streets as north and south boundaries, to move to higher ground immediately without crossing the creek. The one exception in this area is a senior living facility at 10th and Arapahoe that is being assisted with sheltering in place on upper levels. This alert was sent to 3,495 telephone numbers.

City models show that higher ground with little or no expectation of impact on the north side of the creek means that individuals in that area should head for Spruce Street or farther north. Higher ground with little or no expectation of impact on the south side of the creek means that individuals in that area should head for all points south of Marine Street.

The second alert instructed individuals in areas along the Boulder Creek corridor east of Broadway to 75th Street to shelter in place but move to upper floors, if possible. If this is not possible, these individuals should seek higher ground, at least 12 feet above creek level, without crossing the creek. This alert was sent to 4,034 phone numbers.  Map link: http://goo.gl/maps/xBQ03

Both messages were prompted by rapidly rising creek levels, water that is backing up at the mouth of the canyon due to debris, mud and water coming off the mountainsides in the canyon and current weather patterns.

Boulder officers and firefighters are in the area working to keep community members safe.

Vine video of Boulder Creek shot by 7NEWS photojournalist Brian Ferguson:

 

-- Deadly Storms --

The first death from the flooding was reported late Wednesday night in Jamestown, northwest of Boulder. Multiple buildings were reported to have collapsed in Jamestown and the person who died was trapped in one of the buildings.

The Colorado Springs Fire Department Heavy Rescue personnel recovered the body of a man from the water near Nevada and Las Vegas Streets while conducting flood patrols in the area early Thursday morning, officials tweeted.

That man was identified by the Police Department and El Paso County Coroner as 54 year old Danny Davis.

The most recently discovered death came from Boulder County. 7NEWS reporter Tyler Lopez was told the body of an adult male was found near Linden Road, in the north part of the county.

"Boulder County is experiencing a disaster today that is broad in scope and very dangerous in nature," said Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle during a 9 a.m. press conference. "We know that we've lost lives. We anticipate that as the day goes on we may discover that we've lost others."

Pelle went on to say that mountain towns were the worst off and deputies have been "frustrated" in reaching them.

Lyons, he said, was totally isolated. Residents there lost sewer and fresh water service. Many there have huddled on high ground, including four deputies.

"We are just now beginning to assess the scope of the damage," Pelle said.

Boulder County has ordered assistance from other fire and rescue departments and the National Guard. Pelle said they were specifically seeking helicopters and driving vehicles that can safely pass through the water or over debris.

A 42-person FEMA urban search and rescue team was also requested.

"It's a good day to hunker down," Pelle advised.

 

-- Victim assistance --

The Red Cross shelter in Boulder has relocated to the YMCA of Boulder Valley at 2850 Mapleton Ave. The original site at the North Boulder Recreation Center had to be closed due to concern over rising water affecting access to and safety of the original site on Broadway.

Boulder and Larimer County officials are keeping a close watch on burn areas for possible mudslides.
The Red Cross has helpful flood safety tips online and encourages media to share this proactive information with audiences: http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/flood. This page also includes recovery information for safe return after flooding.

The City of Boulder activated flood sirens near Boulder Creek  Wednesday night, urging anyone near the waterway to seek higher ground immediately. Officials warned people not to cross the creek or attempt to leave the area in a vehicle.

The University of Colorado Boulder canceled classes Thursday due to the flooding danger. Boulder Valley School District, St Vrain School District and Estes Park have also closed schools for Thursday. Coal Creek K-8 is closed because of flooding.

 

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