Colorado just can't seem to catch a break. Three months after suffering through the most destructive wildfire in state history, Colorado is now being ravaged by another of the basic elements: Water. At least eight people have died in a week of flooding in a swath of north-central Colorado the size of Delaware.
It's hard to visualize what the massive amount of destruction looks like, so NBC News sent a camera crew in a helicopter to survey the flooding.
Heavy rains dumped down on the already-saturated Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, causing streams to overflow and pour into canyons that transported the water down to Boulder and other heavily populated counties. Boulder got 21 inches of rain over the week — about double the area's normal annual rainfall — according to the National Weather Service. Boulder County and Larimer County, home to Fort Collins, have borne the brunt of the flash flooding.
The numbers are pretty grim. Along with the eight confirmed deaths, hundreds of people are still missing and about 12,000 have been evacuated, mostly by military helicopters and ground vehicles. At least 1,600 homes have been destroyed, an estimated 18,000 damaged, and 2,400 farms and other agricultural properties. Some 650 miles of roads have been flooded or destroyed, along with 122 bridges and 64 irrigation canals.
"Some areas of Larimer County experienced a 100-year flood, some a 1,000-year flood," says Jennifer Hillman at the Larimer County sheriff's department. "When you're talking about rivers cresting 10 feet over their banks, no one can be prepared for that."