NPR Story
4:50 pm
Mon September 16, 2013

Colorado Rescue Efforts Continue Amid Flooding

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is meeting with FEMA administrator Craig Fugate today to let the public know how they are responding to massive flooding.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is sending two 80-person search-and-rescue teams to assist with continuing rescues in Larimer County and providing aid to other communities following massive flooding that began Wednesday along the Front Range.

Hickenlooper tells ABC’s “Good Morning America” that 16 or 17 helicopters will resume searching for stranded residents today. Noting that many people have been without any kind of phone or Internet communications since the middle of last week, he says the focus of the effort is to make sure everyone in harm’s way gets “out of there.”

Emergency officials say four people are confirmed dead and more than 1,200 people have not been heard from. Hickenlooper says while the death toll is expected to rise, he’s hopeful that the vast majority of those people are “safe and sound.”

Guest

  • Alex Goosen, electrician who was airlifted from his home near Lyons, Colo.
Copyright 2013 WBUR-FM. To see more, visit http://www.wbur.org.

Transcript

MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI, HOST:

Well, now to Colorado where evacuations continue as a result of all that epic flooding in the state. More than 11,000 people have been ordered from their homes, hundreds remain unaccounted for.

Alex Goosen is from Lyons, Colorado. He was airlifted out by the National Guard. And, Alex, thank you so much for talking with us. I understand that, right now, you're at your girlfriend's house in Niwot, Colorado. But can you describe what it was like for you when the floods first hit Lyons?

ALEX GOOSEN: I went home late, about 10 o'clock, and it was raining pretty good, but I just went home and went to bed. But in the morning, I was woken up, sounded like I left my TV on and, you know, the cat had stepped on the remote and it was just static. But it turned out to be just, you know, a torrent of water coming down the river. The river is right below my house. And normally, you can just walk across the stream, and I was watching 60-foot pine trees float by, boulders rolling down the size of small cars and (technical difficulties) mountain was grinding its teeth. It was pretty intense.

CHAKRABARTI: We've been seeing reports that described it being like a wall of water coming down the mountains there.

GOOSEN: Yeah. I mean, it would come in, you know, 10 or 15-foot waves. You know, I think, you know, the debris would kind of back it up upstream and then, you know, a big wave would come through. But for the most part, it was just, you know, like if somebody stuck their finger over a garden hose.

CHAKRABARTI: And were you able to get out?

GOOSEN: No. After checking around the area, I found out that we were just totally cut off both upstream and downstream by the river. So we're kind of on an island there. Fourth day, on a Saturday morning, a helicopter came through and checked on us after the rain stopped. And then that Saturday, they started bringing in Blackhawk helicopters and actually airlifted a lady out who was just across the stream from us and was totally cut off from anything. She was in her 90s. They pulled her out. They just lowered a guy down and lifted her up in a basket, took her away.

Later that day, they were just taking us out five at a time via the helicopters, and they took us into Boulder airport where they bused us over to my old high school.

CHAKRABARTI: So you were one of those people that they airlifted out, as well.

GOOSEN: Yeah. Yeah, me and my little cat. She'd never even been in a car before.

CHAKRABARTI: Oh.

GOOSEN: Yeah. So it was - yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

CHAKRABARTI: Have you - so you're in Niwot, Colorado right now. Has - have authorities told you about if - when you might be able to even think about going back home to Lyons?

GOOSEN: I don't think they even know. They're still waiting for the waters to recede. I'm expecting my vehicle and all my possessions would be inaccessible for months, really. And from what I saw, the road being eaten away, you know, unless they've got a huge corps of Army engineers or something up there, it's going to be months, I would guess.

CHAKRABARTI: Alex, I'm wondering, how long have you lived in Colorado for?

GOOSEN: I've been here my whole life.

CHAKRABARTI: Have you ever seen anything like this?

GOOSEN: Well, I remember when I was a kid, they had the Big Thompson flood that wiped out an entire canyon, but this is so much more widespread. I mean, it did that again, plus just about every canyon up and down the Front Range, here. It's just - you know, normally we deal with forest fires, and now we've got walls of water. It's biblical, really.

CHAKRABARTI: Well, Alex Goosen is one of the many people that were airlifted out of Lyons, Colorado, when the waters came. Alex, first of all, we're so glad to hear that you're safe and sound, and thank you so much for sharing your story with us.

GOOSEN: Thanks. I appreciate it.

CHAKRABARTI: We'll be back in one minute. HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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