HYGIENE, Colo. - Colorado rescue crews said Tuesday that emergency calls were dropping after they rescued hundreds more people stranded by floodwaters.
State officials reported six flood-related deaths, plus two women missing and presumed dead. The number was expected to increase. It could take weeks or even months to search through flooded areas looking for people who died.
Hundreds were still missing, but that number has been decreasing, with the state's latest count below 650 people. Officials hoped the number of missing would continue declining as the stranded get in touch with families.
By Tuesday, the number of emergency airlifts was tapering off and helicopter crews methodically searched for those who still need help in the areas that remained inaccessible by ground. More than 2,300 people and 850 pets have been airlifted to safety by Tuesday, according to the Colorado National Guard.
"They've kind of transitioned from that initial response to going into more of a grid search," Colorado National Guard Lt. Skye Robinson said.
Residents of Hygiene, a small community east of the Rocky Mountain foothills, returned home Monday to find homes destroyed and mud blanketing roads. The St. Vrain Creek left trucks in ditches and carried items as far as 2 miles (3 kilometres) downstream.
"My own slice of heaven, and it's gone," Bill Marquedt said of his home.
Residents set to sweeping, shovelling and rinsing, but the rebuilding task was overwhelming.
"What now? We don't even know where to start," said Genevieve Marquez.
State emergency officials offered a first glimpse at the scope of the damage, with counties reporting about 19,000 homes either damaged or destroyed. Those preliminary figures are certain to change as the waters continue to recede and roads are cleared to allow crews to access more areas.
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