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Massive floods sweep the state 

As of press time Tuesday, at least eight people had perished in floods that paralyzed much of Colorado during days of massive rain storms.

Two victims died in El Paso County. But other counties, notably Boulder and Weld, were harder hit. Photos of the devastation showed farm country and fracked oil fields under water. U.S. Highways 34 and 36 were torn apart in places. Jamestown, Lyons and Estes Park were cut off by flood waters and helicopters attempted rescues of hundreds of stranded people, many of whom were unaccounted for as of Tuesday.

Locally, Manitou Springs saw damage near Manitou Avenue and Interstate 25. Colorado Springs is facing major destruction on Gold Camp Road and also on Cheyenne Road, where the Stratton Bridge is structurally compromised. There is pond and sidewalk damage at Gold Camp and Camp Creek, and washouts across the city have damaged structures.

President Barack Obama has issued an emergency disaster declaration for Boulder, El Paso, Larimer, Adams, Arapahoe, Broomfield, Clear Creek, Denver, Fremont, Jefferson, Morgan, Logan, Pueblo, Washington and Weld counties. The declaration makes the counties eligible for federal funding for life-saving and life-sustaining efforts.

A Federal Emergency Management Agency press release also notes that the President declared Boulder, Adams, Larimer and Weld County major disaster areas, which means residents will qualify for additional help such as "temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs."

As of Monday, almost 400 FEMA workers were in Colorado helping with the recovery effort.

Kristin Lynch, press secretary for U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, says the funding should be enough to deal with the current crisis, as well as assist with repairs to roads and bridges, water control facilities, public buildings, public utilities, and other public lands such as parks.

"Our latest reports indicate that the Disaster Relief Fund — which is the core fund FEMA will be tapping into to respond to the floods — has more than $6 billion to deal with disasters," she writes in an e-mail to the Independent. "For perspective, excluding [Hurricanes] Katrina and Sandy, FEMA outlays for disasters have typically been less than $2 billion."

U.S. Housing and Urban Development has also announced that it will provide assistance to homeowners and low-income renters affected by the floods, and the U.S. Department of Transportation is sending the state $5 million for emergency repairs that can reopen roads and bridges.

Meanwhile, state Rep. Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen, who serves on the Joint Budget Committee, says Colorado has $32 million in the Taxpayer Bill of Rights reserve fund that can be used in emergencies, and $40 million in another reserve fund. But state officials don't know how far that will go, "because we don't know how much it will cost and how much the feds will kick in." Nor has the state finished assessing the damage.

— J. Adrian Stanley

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