As people came down from the flooded foothills of the Colorado Rockies, they brought tales of dramatic rescues, heartbreaking loss and neighbours coming together to protect their families and homes. Here are five stories:
Emma Hardy's husband woke her up on Thursday to say a neighbour had been killed by a mudslide that crushed his Jamestown home. From that point on, the 46-year-old artist and her family were in constant motion, knocking on doors and trying to get people out. But within hours, a new, impassable river formed and bisected the town. "It was totally biblical," Hardy said. "And then it just started getting worse and worse." They watched a 3m-high culvert smash their deck. By the time the rain slowed, the house was in the water, but, Hardy made sure to point out, "still standing". A rental property Hardy owned was completely washed away. "It's the river's house now," a neighbour observed outside an evacuation drop-off point at a high school. Hardy said she did not begin to process the scale of the disaster until she was flying away from the town.
The creek outside Terry Kishiyama's home just outside Lyons washed away the family's drinking well and much of their land. "The river was just getting higher and higher to the point where we thought we were going to die," he said after walking off a school bus of evacuees. "You couldn't even talk because it was so loud." Kishiyama, his wife, 5-year-old son and 1-year-old daughter hiked to a neighbour's house on higher ground and waited several days for rescue. Then, a military helicopter appeared and Kishiyama's son waved his orange T-shirt. His wife shouted, "We have babies!" Kishiyama made eye contact with the pilot. Finally, he knew they would be safe.
Residents along Gregory Creek near Boulder joined with students from the nearby University of Colorado in a frantic effort to save homes. They raided one another's yards for flagstones, filled garbage bags with sand and used whatever else they could to make berms and divert the water away from the houses. A conflict arose on Saturday when city crews with dump trucks and front-end loaders showed up to remove some of the residents' handiwork. After some protests from homeowners, the crews left many of the diversion berms in place. "People are extremely relieved, but we're not out of it yet," Charles Corfield said.
At Ted's Place, a convenience store at the entrance to Poudre Canyon west of Fort Collins, dark clouds gathered yesterday with the threat of more rain. Michael Sronce made his way down from his home in the canyon to get milk and bread for a neighbour with seven children. "There's a lot of people up there who need food and need to get out," he said. He and his wife had initially been told to evacuate but couldn't because the river was flowing over the bridge to their house. Yesterday, Sronce was able to get down the road to the convenience store, stopping short of a traffic checkpoint and walking the rest of the way so he wouldn't be kept from returning to his home if he drove past the checkpoint.
For a group of grinning, super-fit men and women, the flooding offered a real-life test of the skills they were learning in a wilderness survival course at a campground. As they got off a school bus yesterday, the happy campers shouted boasts among themselves about how long they could have lasted in the wild. "There were rabbits around. There were fish in the pond, water - you just make a charcoal filter and boil it," said Norwell Therien, who is starting an emergency preparedness company. "We could have been up there for the two weeks they speculated it would take to fix the roads without problem. I would have been cool with it." The torrential rain became a lesson in how to deal with washed-out trails. "With our background in survival, we were perfectly content to just continue our class. We were all taking notes in the rain," Therien said. "I had already begun scouting out where you might find a rabbit or where the deer might come."