234 people 'unaccounted for' in Boulder County, 3 deaths confirmed in county

Sheriff says county's western side mostly isolated

BOULDER, Colo. - A total of 234 people are now considered "unaccounted for," the Boulder Office of Emergency Management said Saturday morning. That number has been changing as people are found and more people are added to the list.

The classification means that friends or family members have called the sheriff's office to report they lost contact with the individuals in question.

During a Friday briefing about the flooding, officials said those concerned about unaccounted people can contact the Boulder Emergency Operations call center at 303-413-7730 and authorities will try to locate them.

A third death was also confirmed in Boulder County Friday, the sheriff reported.

"We believe it's the person we've been looking for," Sheriff Joe Pelle said about the death, referring to a young woman who was previously reported missing.

The woman was swept away from an area near Linden Drive when the car she was riding in became caught in fast-moving water and she tried to get out.

A man who was also in that car was found dead Thursday.

The other death confirmed in Boulder County was reported late Wednesday night in Jamestown, northwest of Boulder. Multiple buildings were reported to have collapsed in Jamestown and the man who died was trapped in one of the buildings.

Pelle, who said Thursday he feared more deaths could be discovered, again expressed concerns about unknown deaths or damage.

"The thing that worries us the most are the things that we don't know right now. We don't know about lives lost, homes lost, (or) people stranded in many, many of the canyon areas in our upper communities. The effort to assess that, document it and get people in there is going to be ongoing for several days," Pelle said.

Pelle also described a staggering amount of infrastructure damage in Boulder County. Four helicopters are being used to ferry aid to communities like Jamestown that are inaccessible by vehicles on the ground.

"This is a huge project and it will be ongoing for a long time. Many, many communities in our western mountains are completely isolated; There is no road access, no telephone information, no power, no water, no septic, no sewer, and so we have our hands full simply trying to assess what we have on our hands. We know that we've lost every roadway leading to the western end of our county," he said.

The sheriff plans to be dependent on helicopters for the foreseeable future.

"The roadways aren't simply blocked by mudslides or rock slides or debris. The roadways are in many, many places completely gone," Pelle said.

A federal "type 2 incident management team" is in Boulder County to take over much of the management of the resources marshaled by the federal government, national guard and local departments. The total manpower of the effort is expected to double in the near future.

Earlier Friday, City of Boulder Police Chief Mark Beckner cautioned people that Boulder County continues to be at risk and residents shouldn't let down their guard, even if there's a momentary break in the rain.

"I stress the danger's not over," Beckner said. "We are not out of the woods yet. We are still in a critical condition."

The chief called the flood water rushing down from the mountains unprecedented during his career.

"In my 35 years,  we're never had anything this significant," Beckner said.

The chief asked residents to avoid driving in Boulder and to stay away from creeks and other areas where water may rise. Beckner also urged people to not visit Boulder until the severe weather ends.

"We're asking people to not come to Boulder unless necessary. And the reason for that is because if you get here, you might not be able to get out. Most roads are closed," the chief warned.

Boulder Police Spokeswoman Kim Kobel warned people to stay out of the waters, saying they are full of sewage and dangerous debris.

President Barack Obama signed an emergency order Thursday night, approving federal disaster aid for Boulder County.

The City of Boulder's city manager has signed and issued a local disaster and emergency declaration. The Governor also signed his own disaster declaration and said he was working to put a declaration on the President's desk through FEMA.

The Boulder County Office of Emergency Management reported that approximately 40 buildings at CU Boulder -- 25 percent of the campus -- have water damage. The campus was closed Thursday and Friday.

Thirteen students from dorm rooms in two residence halls were displaced because their rooms flooded, said CU spokesman Bronson Hilliard. They were put up in other areas of campus housing.

"Indications are right now that the water damage in those is so severe that it could be two-to-three weeks before we can return those students to their specific rooms in those residence halls," Hilliard said.

Some 350 people in Family Housing apartments were evacuated because those structures are so close to Boulder Creek. That's revised downward from an earlier estimate of up to 500.

Some of the residents are sheltering with friends or family. Others were moved to available units on upper floors.

"We've got reports of water in lower floors in dozens and dozens of buildings on campus," Hilliard said.

There are 50 people working to assess the damage throughout the campus, he said.

Experts believe there is likely minor damage in nearly every campus building with a basement.

Boulder Creek runs through the CU Boulder campus.

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