Widespread flash flooding in Boulder County, Colo. forced thousands of evacuations Friday as dangerous conditions continued to threaten to residents.
The Colorado National Guard is assisting with statewide search and rescue efforts and has evacuated 2,000 residents of Lyons, Colo. as of Friday morning, said Pentagon spokesman George Little. The reserve is still under the state government's jurisdiction, not the federal government.
Officials in Boulder issued emergency alerts to 8,000 residents along Boulder Creek urging them to seek shelter elsewhere or move to higher ground reported USA Today, while roughly 4,000 residents along Boulder Canyon were mandated to evacuate.
Though rain diminished in the morning, thunderstorms were expected to pick back up in the evening. The National Weather Service had a flood warning for Denver and a flash flood watch for central, northern and northeast Colorado in effect until Friday evening. A flood advisory for the Saint Vrain Creek in Lyons was in effect until Saturday morning.
President Barack Obama issued an emergency declaration Thursday night, asking the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts.
National Weather Service meteorologist Kari Bowen told LiveScience that the damage from wildfires in the region over the past several years may have exasperated the flooding.
"When you have a dense forest with undergrowth, you have plants and things to trap moisture and rain," said Bowen. "But when it's gone, you have nothing to catch it." Because flames have removed so much brush, even a half inch of water is able to move freely and quickly enough to cause flooding.
Meanwhile, flash floods were expected to move south toward New Mexico, where heavy rain caused residents near the Las Animas and Palomas creeks to evacuate. The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning in Albuquerque until 4:30 p.m. MDT.