VIDEO, PICTURES

US National Guard evacuates Colorado town caught in flood

Colorado National Guardsmen place a dog into a high-clearance military vehicle as they rescue people and pets stranded by flooding in Lyons, Colorado, on Sept 12, 2013, in this photo provided by the Colorado National Guard. Thousands more people in C
Colorado National Guardsmen place a dog into a high-clearance military vehicle as they rescue people and pets stranded by flooding in Lyons, Colorado, on Sept 12, 2013, in this photo provided by the Colorado National Guard. Thousands more people in Colorado were ordered to evacuate on Sept 13, as water rose to dangerous levels amid a storm system that has been dropping rain for a week. -- FILE PHOTO: AP
Storm clouds build over Boulder, Colorado, and the Rocky Mountains on Sept 13, 2013. Taking advantage of a break in record rains that caused Colorado's worst flooding in over three decades, United States National Guard members streamed into the remot
Storm clouds build over Boulder, Colorado, and the Rocky Mountains on Sept 13, 2013. Taking advantage of a break in record rains that caused Colorado's worst flooding in over three decades, United States National Guard members streamed into the remote town of Lyons in high profile vehicles and were going door to door to ferry residents to safer ground. -- PHOTO: AP 
University of Colorado students carry belongings to an apartment in Boulder, Colorado, on Sept 13, 2013. Floodwaters cascaded downstream from the Colorado Rockies on Friday, spilling normally scenic mountain rivers and creeks over their banks and for
University of Colorado students carry belongings to an apartment in Boulder, Colorado, on Sept 13, 2013. Floodwaters cascaded downstream from the Colorado Rockies on Friday, spilling normally scenic mountain rivers and creeks over their banks and forcing thousands more evacuations in water-logged communities beset by days of steady rain. -- PHOTO: AP
Water rushes through a neighbourhood in Lyons, Colorado, on Sept 13, 2013. Days of heavy rains and flash floods which washed out all the town's bridges have left Lyons residents stranded from emergency crews, and has sectioned off the town into sever
Water rushes through a neighbourhood in Lyons, Colorado, on Sept 13, 2013. Days of heavy rains and flash floods which washed out all the town's bridges have left Lyons residents stranded from emergency crews, and has sectioned off the town into several pieces not reachable from one to another. -- PHOTO: AP
Temporarily displaced Lyons resident Kevin Bonner walks among a makeshift camp for people who voluntarily camped on higher ground due to fears of a dam breaking, on a hill overlooking Lyons, Colorado, on Sept 13, 2013. Days of heavy rains and flash f
Temporarily displaced Lyons resident Kevin Bonner walks among a makeshift camp for people who voluntarily camped on higher ground due to fears of a dam breaking, on a hill overlooking Lyons, Colorado, on Sept 13, 2013. Days of heavy rains and flash floods which washed out bridges have left Lyons residents stranded from emergency crews, and has sectioned off the town into several pieces not reachable from one to another. -- PHOTO: AP
A National Guard helicopter lands at Boulder Municipal Airport after ferrying supplies and rescue personnel to mountain towns that have been cut off by the flooding in Boulder, Colorado, on Sept 13, 2013. The National Guard worked to rescue an entire
A National Guard helicopter lands at Boulder Municipal Airport after ferrying supplies and rescue personnel to mountain towns that have been cut off by the flooding in Boulder, Colorado, on Sept 13, 2013. The National Guard worked to rescue an entire Colorado town of about 1,600 people on Friday, a day after they were cut off by raging floodwaters that have killed at least three people, washed out dams and turned roads into rivers across the state. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Ms Deborah Haynes is directed off the tarmac at Boulder Municipal Airport after being flown down from Jamestown on a National Guard helicopter. She was stranded from heavy rains in Boulder, Colorado, on Sept 13, 2013. The National Guard worked to res
Ms Deborah Haynes is directed off the tarmac at Boulder Municipal Airport after being flown down from Jamestown on a National Guard helicopter. She was stranded from heavy rains in Boulder, Colorado, on Sept 13, 2013. The National Guard worked to rescue an entire Colorado town of about 1,600 people on Friday, a day after they were cut off by raging floodwaters that have killed at least three people, washed out dams and turned roads into rivers across the state. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A team from Rocky Mountain Rescue prepares to depart on a mountain flood rescue mission flown by the National Guard in Boulder, Colorado, on Sept 13, 2013. Flash flooding in Colorado has left at least three people reportedly dead and the widespread h
A team from Rocky Mountain Rescue prepares to depart on a mountain flood rescue mission flown by the National Guard in Boulder, Colorado, on Sept 13, 2013. Flash flooding in Colorado has left at least three people reportedly dead and the widespread high waters have hampered emergency workers' access to affected communities as heavy rains hammered northern Colorado. -- PHOTO: AP
Colorado National Guardsmen respond to floods in Boulder County, Colorado, in this handout photo provided by the Army National Guard and taken on Sept 12, 2013. The National Guard on Friday evacuated a Colorado town cut off by raging floodwaters, whi
Colorado National Guardsmen respond to floods in Boulder County, Colorado, in this handout photo provided by the Army National Guard and taken on Sept 12, 2013. The National Guard on Friday evacuated a Colorado town cut off by raging floodwaters, while forecasters called for some let-up in record rains that have killed three people, washed out dams and swamped roads across the state. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Colorado National Guardsmen rescue a dog while responding to floods in Boulder County, Colorado, in this handout photo provided by the Army National Guard and taken on Sept 12, 2013. The National Guard on Friday evacuated a Colorado town cut off by r
Colorado National Guardsmen rescue a dog while responding to floods in Boulder County, Colorado, in this handout photo provided by the Army National Guard and taken on Sept 12, 2013. The National Guard on Friday evacuated a Colorado town cut off by raging floodwaters, while forecasters called for some let-up in record rains that have killed three people, washed out dams and swamped roads across the state. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Brother and sister Patrick Tinsley and Mary Kerns walk into Boulder, Colorado., from their mountain community Magnolia, where road access is shut off by debris from days of record rain and flooding, at the base of Boulder Canyon, Colorado, on Friday
Brother and sister Patrick Tinsley and Mary Kerns walk into Boulder, Colorado., from their mountain community Magnolia, where road access is shut off by debris from days of record rain and flooding, at the base of Boulder Canyon, Colorado, on Friday Sept 13, 2013. People in Boulder were ordered to evacuate as water rose to dangerous levels amid a storm system that has been dropping rain for a week. Rescuers struggled to reach dozens of people cut off by flooding in mountain communities, while residents in the Denver area and other areas were warned to stay off flooded streets. -- FILE PHOTO: AP 
In this photo provided by the Colorado National Guard, guardsmen, including water rescue specialists in red vests, search a flooded neighbourhood in Lyons, Colorado, on Sept 12, 2013. The United States National Guard drove military vehicles into a sm
In this photo provided by the Colorado National Guard, guardsmen, including water rescue specialists in red vests, search a flooded neighbourhood in Lyons, Colorado, on Sept 12, 2013. The United States National Guard drove military vehicles into a small Colorado town on Friday to rescue up to 2,000 residents cut off by raging floods that have already killed three people in the state, hauling them out through waist-high waters. -- PHOTO: AP

BOULDER, Colorado (REUTERS) - The United States (US) National Guard drove military vehicles into a small Colorado town on Friday to rescue up to 2,000 residents cut off by raging floods that have already killed three people in the state, hauling them out through waist-high waters.

Taking advantage of a break in record rains that caused Colorado's worst flooding in over three decades, Guard members streamed into the remote town of Lyons in high profile vehicles and were going door to door to ferry residents to safer ground.

"These individuals are not only coming with just themselves, but with their suitcases and their precious household items along with their pets and everything, all getting loaded in the back of these vehicles," said First Lieutenant Skye Robinson, a spokesman for the Colorado National Guard.

The flooding, which toppled buildings and forced thousands from their homes, was triggered by unusually intense late-summer storms that drenched Colorado's biggest urban centres, from Fort Collins near the Wyoming border south through Boulder, Denver and Colorado Springs.

Boulder and a string of other towns along the so-called Front Range of the Rockies north of Denver were especially hard hit as water poured down rain-soaked mountains and spilled through canyons that funneled the run-off into populated areas below.

Lyons, north of Boulder, was virtually cut off when floodwaters washed out US Route 36, and residents have been without water and power for 48 hours, said Mr Mike Banuelos, a spokesman for the Boulder County Emergency Operations Center.

"It's a pretty dangerous situation," he said.

Those evacuated from the town were later transferred to school buses at a staging area outside the flood zone and driven to shelters in nearby Longmont. It was not clear when they could return home, with more rainfall forecast for later on Friday.

"We're taking them to a safe place," First Lt Robinson said. "It's not raining at this moment but more floodwaters could be coming."

Governor John Hickenlooper said evacuations were the highest priority and advised people to stay out of debris- and sand-filled floodwaters that were "almost like liquid cement".

"It's got to be the largest storm that I can imagine in the state's history," he told a televised news conference.

The flooding was the worst in the state since nearly 150 people were killed near Boulder in 1976 by a flash flood along the Big Thompson Canyon.

President Barack Obama approved a federal disaster assistance request, which will release funds to help with emergency protection.

First Lt Robinson said the respite from the storm had also allowed Blackhawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopters to fly over the devastated area for the first time, bringing humanitarian aid to stranded communities and to help with the search and rescue efforts.

CREEK BECOMES RAGING TORRENT

In Boulder, the storms shattered a September rainfall record set in 1940, officials said, unleashing surging floodwaters in Boulder Canyon above the city that triggered the evacuation of some 4,000 residents late on Thursday.

Also on Friday, flooding forced the Colorado Department of Transportation to shut down a 113km stretch of Interstate 25 from north of Denver to the Wyoming border, said agency spokesman Mindy Crane.

In Denver on Friday, a man who was swept into a culvert by raging waters was rescued about four blocks away along with his dog, said Denver Fire Department spokesman Mark Watson.

"He was pretty beat up, but conscious and talking, certainly was glad to be out of there," he said.

Boulder County Sheriff's Commander Heidi Prentup told reporters on Friday that about 20 people in the county were out of contact with loved ones but that none of them had yet been classified as missing or in danger.

"We are still actively trying to locate them," Ms Prentup said."We have people calling in that they have relatives in Boulder County that they haven't been able to reach."

Boulder Creek, which runs through the heart of Boulder, became a raging torrent that burst its banks and flooded adjacent parking lots and streets as warning sirens wailed.

In Longmont, about 23km north-east of Boulder, the St Vrain River jumped its banks, cascading across main thoroughfares and cutting the city in two.

Assistant city manager Shawn Lewis said 7,000 households were under mandatory evacuation orders, and that the city opened two emergency shelters for displaced residents.

A dozen major roads in northeastern Colorado remained shut with significant damage from flooding, mudslides, rock falls and other debris, the Colorado Department of Transportation said late on Thursday.

A flood watch was extended until 12pm MDT (2am Singapore time) on Friday for the entire Front Range. The National Weather Service said at least 31.24cm of rain have fallen on Boulder this month, smashing a 73-year-old record of 14cm for September.

Among the casualties of the floods was a person whose body was found in a collapsed building near Jamestown, an evacuated enclave north of Boulder.

A couple were swept away in floodwaters after stopping their car north-west of the city. The man's body was recovered but the woman was missing and feared dead, said Commander Heidi Prentup of the Boulder County Sheriff's Office.

Police found the body of a third confirmed fatality, a man, during flood-watch patrols in Colorado Springs, about 160km to the south, officials said.