(USA TODAY) - The number of people unaccounted for in flood-ravaged Colorado rose Sunday to 1,254 as flooding spread to 15 counties and rain continued to fall.
Many of those unaccounted for were reported unreachable on the phone by family members.
"We don't expect to find 1,254 fatalities," said Micki Trost, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
Five fatalities -- four in Boulder County and one in El Paso County -- have been confirmed since the bulk of the rain began Wednesday evening. Still the number of fatalities could rise. An 80-year-old woman in Larimer County's Cedar Grove was missing and presumed dead after her home was washed away by the flooding Big Thompson River , the county sheriff's office said Sunday. The woman was injured and unable to leave her home Friday night, sheriff's spokesman John Schulz said. A second Larimer County 60-year-old woman is also presumed dead after the river destroyed her home the same night.
Some 1,500 homes have been destroyed and about 17,500 have been damaged, according to an initial estimate released by the Colorado Office of Emergency Management.
Some people just don't know what's come of their relatives. A Dallas man saw a photo of his mother's Big Thompson Canyon home in ruins on a Denver TV website. "I don't know that she's even OK," Rob Clements told The Coloradoan about his mother, Libby Orr, 73, with whom he last spoke on Thursday. "I presume she is. But her house, if not completely gone, fell into the river and is most of the way gone."
Many roads and bridges in the state are damaged or destroyed, said Amy Ford, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Transportation.
Crews are assessing the extent of the damage, which will cost "hundreds of millions" of dollars to repair, she said.
The actual number of roads damaged or destroyed is unknown, Ford said. Sections of three U.S. highways - 34, 36 and 72 - and various mountain roads are heavily damaged, she said.
Thirty highway bridges are destroyed, 20 are seriously damaged, and transportation officials suspect 20 others are damaged.
"Our first priority is looking at roads to repair," Ford said. "We're also looking at roadways near water that weren't closed to make sure they are safe."
Recovery "will take weeks, if not months," she said.
Long-time Boulder resident Tom Kahn said there were some mudslides in his neighborhood near the base of a mountain that overlooks the city of Boulder, but his house did not suffer any major damage. Water "poured" into some nearby houses, he said.
"It's very sad," said Kahn, a Realtor who has lived in Boulder since 1967. "Our beautiful Boulder is hammered. Mother Nature wins."
He said Four Mile Canyon, one of several canyons where people live outside of Boulder, is "a total wipeout."
"Life goes on, but it's so heartbreaking."
Boulder resident Rudy Harburg said the most prevalent problem in the city of Boulder is flooded basements. He said the local Home Depot sold 700 sump pumps in four hours.
"I have not seen as much rain in the 55 years I have lived in Boulder," said Harburg, who owns apartments in the city.
In front of a house on a hill above the University of Colorado campus, he said he saw people piling a couch and other furniture in front of the front door to keep water from rushing into the house.
A few days ago, a major street in Boulder, Baseline, was "a torrential river," and Boulder Canyon, the big canyon leading into and out of the city, is "a disaster," he said.
The Boulder Sheriff's Office has reported that mudslides, debris and water have destroyed or made impassable mountain roads in Boulder Canyon and other canyons west of the city.
Harburg said, though, that media pictures showing extensive flood-related damage - particularly in hard-hit, nearby Lyons - are not representative of downtown Boulder. He said he has encountered roadblocks blocking some city streets, but he has usually been able to drive without obstruction through the city.
He said many college students were making the best of the situation, "dancing in the rain and running around in bikinis" on the hill above campus.
He praised city officials, because "our infrastructure - roads, storm sewers and drainage systems - has held up."
About 14,500 people have evacuated from flooded areas in 15 counties, and 1,329 stayed overnight Saturday in 26 emergency shelters, Trost said.
Many displaced residents are staying with family or friends or in hotels, she said.
Rain fell intermittently Saturday, and 4 inches of rain were expected Sunday.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said Sunday he expects the weather to clear Monday morning or afternoon.
The state has "a lot of broken roads and broken bridges, but we don't have broken spirits," he said.
Hickenlooper said helicopters rescued more than 2,000 people in need of evacuation in flooded areas.
The size of the flood-affected area is growing.
Flooding has impacted the foothills on the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains from Fort Collins in northern Colorado to Canon City, about 180 miles away in southern Colorado.
The hardest-hit counties are Boulder and Larimer in the north and El Paso in the south. The state's two largest public universities are in the two northern counties - the University of Colorado in Boulder and Colorado State University in Larimer's most populous city, Fort Collins.
In El Paso County, which includes Colorado Springs, the Manitou Springs area has been most affected by the flooding, Trost said.
Floodwaters have now spread east to the Great Plains in eastern Colorado. An emergency shelter has been set up in Sterling, about 102 miles east of Fort Collins and the Rocky Mountain foothills.
Want to help out Colorado flood victims? Trost says anyone wishing to send financial assistance should go to helpcoloradonow.org.
Liz Erley, chairwoman of the Lyons Community Foundation. , says anyone wishing to help Lyons residents whose homes were destroyed or damaged should send a check to the Lyons Community Foundation/Relief Fund, The Community Foundation, 1123 Spruce St., Boulder, Colo., 80302.
Contributing: The Associated Press; The Coloradoan.
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