Colorado floods: Rescuers seek survivors and signs of hope

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by Ginger Zee, Clayton Sandell and Alexis Shaw

ABC News

Posted on September 15, 2013 at 7:40 PM

Updated Sunday, Sep 15 at 7:40 PM

(ABC News) -- Nearly 500 people were still unaccounted for today in Larimer County, Colo., alone in wake of the ferocious flooding that has ripped through the state, killing at least six people.

Nick Christensen, a spokesman for the Larimer County Sheriff's Office, admitted that the death toll is expected to rise, but the list of 482 people unaccounted for in the county should shrink drastically.

"It may be a book-keeping, cross-referencing issue," he said. "There's been lots of parties that have been evacuated, we've had trouble with phone service and so we have a master list that will get shorter, hopefully far, far shorter, as time goes by and we cross reference and determine where each of those parties are."

Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith told ABC News he hopes the number comes down dramatically today, as rescuers are reporting miracle after miracle in their search efforts.

He fought back tears as he described what he saw after touring the county today.

"I know exactly inch by inch, mile by mile, community by community, they're taking this stuff back, they're doing it, people are getting those things done out there," he said. "I was devastated by what I saw in there and you had no feel that there was any hope -- it felt hopeless in a lot of those areas from the air."

Statewide, nearly 600 are unaccounted for as a result of the rising floodwaters that have destroyed homes and wiped out roads in the Centennial state.

Among those who died was an 80-year-old woman from the Cedar Cove area, according to the Larimer County Sheriff's Office.

Even as rescue crews worked to bring thousands to safety today, questions loomed large for residents who don't know when they can return home or what they will find when they do.

More than 7,000 people have been evacuated from their homes as the waters continue to surge.

With flash flood watches and warnings in effect from New Mexico through northeastern Colorado, families are holding on as they bear witness to the unthinkable damage.

Some are packing up while they still can to get to higher ground, as rainfall is not anticipated to let up until at least Tuesday.

Overnight, President Obama ordered extra federal aid to those impacted by the disaster in Colorado, according to a news release.

Those affected in Boulder County may be eligible for temporary housing and home repairs, loans to cover uninsured property losses, as well as programs to help businesses and homeowners take steps towards recovery.

As the National Guard continues to pull residents to safety, Lt. Colonel Mitch Utterback said the evacuations may have marked the greatest number of Americans rescued by helicopter since Hurricane Katrina.

Skysight Aerial Imaging, a Boulder company, set up a drone equipped with a camera to capture the tremendous amount of damage caused by the floods.

The footage shows roads that have become rivers, and rivers that are so high, they almost touch the bottom of bridges.

Yet in times of tragedy come acts of courage and kindness.

As many were forced to leave their homes in Weld County, Colo., on a moment's notice, they could not take their livestock with them. Now, the countless animals trapped by the fast rising currents are being ushered to safety.

Good Samaritans in Greeley, Colo., banded together to help rescue and soothe the animals shaken by the storms, before taking them shelters to ensure they would get the care they need.

"We just started pulling horses," one woman told ABC News. "It was like nothing I've ever seen before."

Weld County Sheriff's Deputy Dan Perusek began his search on Friday night when the waters started rising, rescuing goats trapped in their stalls.

He and his neighbors worked through Saturday to rescue 18 steeds, along with llamas, donkeys and cattle.

"I don't have kids, but I have animals," he said. "Someone's got to give them a fighting chance too."

For more from ABC News, click here.

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