Colorado floods continue to threaten the safety of thousands living in the 15 counties heavily damaged by raging floodwaters. Officials are now saying that six fatalities have been reported, but expect there could be dozens more. Over 1,000 people are yet unaccounted for, reports CNN on Sept. 16.
Rain continues to fall in what some describe as “Biblical” amounts, forcing close to 15,000 to evacuate as they await a break in the weather, expected to come early this week.
National Guard helicopters have evacuated close to 2,000 residents, but hundreds more are still unreachable due to blocked roads and heavy fog.
Stories of triumph in the face of tragedy stand in stark contrast with those who have lost loved ones. Wiyanna Nelson and Wesley Quinlan, both 19, were among the six who have been killed thus far.
Survivor Emily Briggs was with the two victims, along with friend Nathan Jennings, when the four teens drove home Wednesday night in Boulder County. When the rains started to hit, Emily turned the wheel over to Wesley to get them home.
“I started panicking and I couldn't breathe, and Wesley said, ‘It's OK, Emily, I'll drive.’ So I let him drive, and we kept driving and we just hit a wall of water and rocks,” Briggs recounts.
When they could no longer drive, the four friends were forced to get out of their car and try to reach safe ground.
“Our feet were just thrown in the air,” said Jennings. Wiyanna was swept away.
“I looked at Wesley and he looked at me, and he jumped after [Wiyanna],” Briggs said. Emily waited in the car, while Jennings, who was also swept away, managed to grab some debris to hold onto. Quinlan’s and Nelson’s bodies were recovered the next day.
“It's unlikely at this point that we'll be able to reach those who are stranded in the hard-to-reach areas,” said Kim Kobel, a spokesperson for Boulder's Office of Emergency Management.
Governor John Hickenlooper said many of those reported missing are likely just out of reach of communications, but that he is “still bracing” for bad news.
“I mean, there are many, many homes that have been destroyed,” Hickenlooper said.