30-foot 'surge of water, mud, rocks' dissipates before hitting Boulder, Colorado
A 30-foot deep "surge of water, mud, rocks and debris" dissipated before reaching the outskirts of Boulder, Colo., emergency officials said early Friday.
Area residents were told to move to higher ground after a witness spotted the surge -- which included cars -- heading down Fourmile Creek toward Boulder Creek around 11:10 p.m. local time (1:10 a.m. ET), according to the Boulder Office of Emergency Management. The National Weather Service had initially characterized the incident as "potentially life threatening."
The surge flattened out as the canyon became less steep toward the city and by the time it arrived at Boulder Creek it was not nearly as severe as initially feared, officials said.
Some 4,000 people in the city were given mandatory evacuation orders late Thursday and another 4,000 were told to shelter in place, police said. At least three people died in flash floods in the area on Thursday.
Officials said 17 people were unaccounted for early Friday but it was unclear whether they were in danger.
Nick Grossman, public information officer at the Boulder Office of Emergency Management said there was no further information on who the people were or under what circumstances they had been reported missing.
“These are people who family members have reported not knowing where they are,” he said. “As it gets light in the morning we will reassess the situation and hopefully be able to account for these people who are out there. In these cases a friend or family member is concerned because they have not been able to contact them through the usual ways and means. It could just be that their cellphone as got wet, so it’s hard to say at this time if they are in danger.”
Boulder Police Deputy Chief Greg Testa said early Friday that water levels appeared to be "slowly receding."
He said the flow of water in Boulder Creek was running at 5,000 cubic feet per second at 8:45 p.m. local time (10:45 p.m. ET) Thursday, the time when the evacuation order was given. But at 2 a.m. Friday (4 a.m. ET), it was down to 3,800 cubic feet per second.
The National Weather Service also issued flash flood warnings until 6 a.m. local time (8 a.m. ET) for northern Jefferson County and Boulder County.
"At 11:53 p.m. MDT emergency management reported a new round of severe flash flooding in Fourmile Creek, Boulder Creek and Lefthand Canyon in Boulder County," the NWS said. "If you are near Boulder or Fourmile Creeks, get to higher ground now. Do not try to outrun this flash flood!"
Earlier, the Boulder Office of Emergency Management issued two emergency alerts to 8,000 phone numbers for residents along Boulder Creek, telling some to move to higher ground without crossing the creek and others to shelter in place but to move to higher floors if possible.
Scores of Boulder residents remained sheltered in a local YMCA early Friday as the region washed by days of rain and now flash floods braced against the continuing storms.
About 6.8 inches of rain fell over the city in a 24-hour period, according to the National Weather Service.
Officials were uncertain as to when the period of intense weather would end.
“We have been told it is supposed to be raining half and inch to an inch per hour but we don’t know when it is going to abate,” Burrus added. “Supposedly it could stop Friday evening but it’s really hard to tell. It’s a slow-moving system which is locked in. On our radar you can just see the stuff rolling up the mountains of New Mexico. If this was December we would be looking at 10 feet of snow.”