CENTENNIAL, Colo. (September 17, 2013) – The 16 Colorado National Guard members and first responders who were unable to evacuate themselves after they were stopped by rising flood waters have resumed their regularly scheduled mission.
About 4:20 p.m. Sept. 15, a mix of 51 Colorado National Guard members, Urban Search & Rescue personnel and civilians, along with five pets and six high-mobility military trucks, were reported to be stopped by rising waters in Lyons, Colo.
Fort Carson aviators piloting two helicopters were able to successfully evacuate all 10 civilians and their pets, along with a number of Guard members and Army Reserve personnel, before weather took another bad turn and aviation operations were suspended for the night. Flights were limited for most of the day as heavy rain and low ceilings hampered visibility, causing flight safety issues.
Rather than wait out the storm, the remaining 16 personnel – seven Colorado Guard members and nine Army Reserve personnel – spent several hours going door-to-door in the flood area, looking for anyone else who may need their assistance.
As the stranded rescuers were knocking, a family of Good Samaritans offered the group a warm place to stay overnight.
The group headed back out early Sept. 16 to search for more people in distress. Later, they teamed up with Colorado Department of Transportation and Boulder County professionals to build a makeshift bridge that would allow the Guard and USAR members to leave the area, along with one evacuee.
As of 5:45 p.m. Sept. 16, more than 700 military members in tactical trucks and helicopters have rescued in excess of 2,400 people and hundreds of pets displaced by flooding in Colorado, and all 21 military helicopters scheduled to perform evacuation operations were in service.
In addition to ground and aerial evacuation operations, Colorado National Guard members are also manning more than 40 traffic control points in several affected counties in order to ensure public safety and protect property.
The Colorado National Guard, Wyoming National Guard, and U.S. Army’s 4th Combat Aviation Brigade from Fort Carson, are working in direct support of civilian authorities.
According to Lance Blyth, U.S. Northern Command historian, the military response to the Colorado floods, dubbed “Operation Centennial Raging Waters,” is likely the biggest rotary-wing airlift mission since Hurricane Katrina.