A flash flood caused by torrential downpours in Colorado has killed at least three people and forced hundreds to flee to higher ground as rising water caused buildings to collapse and stranded cars, officials said on Thursday.
Heavy rains fell in Colorado's biggest urban areas, stretching 130 miles along the eastern slopes of the Rockies from Fort Collins near the Wyoming border south through Denver and Colorado Springs.
Kari Bowen, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Boulder, Colorado, northwest of Denver, said more than 6 inches of rain had fallen on Boulder and up to 8 inches were measured in the foothills west of the city.
"These constant rainstorms we typically don't see" in eastern Colorado, Bowen said.
A Boulder County Office of Emergency Management spokesman said conditions were "extremely dangerous" and that up to 4 inches of additional rain was expected to fall in the region on Thursday.
At least two people died in flooding in Boulder County, one when a home collapsed. The body of a third victim was found in Colorado Springs, about 100 miles to the south, officials said.
"There is water everywhere," said Andrew Barth, the spokesman in Boulder County. "We've had several structural collapses. There's mud and muck and debris everywhere. Cars are stranded all over the place."
The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for central Boulder County, and Boulder Creek, which runs through the city of Boulder, jumped its banks. Overnight, a separate flash flood warning was issued for southeastern Colorado.
Emergency crews searching door-to-door in Jamestown, outside Boulder, found one body while evacuating residents who were stranded in canyons above the city, Barth said. Sheriff's officials said at least one other person in the county had been killed. The body of a man killed in Colorado Springs was found by police on flood watch foot patrols, the city's fire department said in a statement.
The University of Colorado's Boulder campus evacuated more than 400 students from ground-floor campus housing overnight, said Ryan Huff, a spokesman for the campus police. All city government offices were closed, a city spokeswoman said.
In Broomfield, a small town just northwest of Denver, three people were rescued from an upside-down car that was swept into a washed-out culvert along a roadway with two other vehicles, the Boulder Emergency Management Office said.