The relentless rush of water from higher ground turned towns into muddy swamps, and the rain returned Friday afternoon after brief lull. In at least one community, pressure from the descending water caused sewer grates to erupt into huge black geysers.
Damage assessments were on hold with many roads impassable and the rain expected to continue.
“This one’s going to bring us to our knees,” said Tom Simmons, president and co-owner of Crating Technologies, a Longmont packing service that had its warehouse inundated. “It’s hoping against hope. We’re out of business for a long time.”
About 90 miles of Interstate 25 were closed Friday from Denver to Cheyenne, Wyo., because of flooding from the St. Vrain, Poudre and Big Thompson rivers, transportation officials said.
Hundreds of people were forced to seek emergency shelter up and down Colorado’s heavily populated Front Range, which has received more than 15 inches of rain this week, according to the National Weather Service.
That’s about half the amount of precipitation that normally falls in the foothills near Boulder during an entire year.
Boulder County officials said 80 people were unaccounted for Friday. But, they noted, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are missing.
“It means we haven’t heard back from them,” county spokesman James Burrus said.
Two backpackers became stranded on Longs Peak, one of Colorado’s highest mountains, after the weather turned. Suzanne Turell and Connie Yang of York, Maine, last sent a text message Thursday with their GPS coordinates, but their cellphones went dead, said Turell’s mother, Barbara.
The pair hiked off the mountain themselves as the National Park Service was organizing a rescue effort.
The park service closed Rocky Mountain National Park and was escorting visitors and residents of Estes Park on a trail over the Continental Divide.