Biden tours flood-ravaged Colorado

Sept. 23, 2013 at 4:46 PM
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AURORA, Colo., Sept. 23 (UPI) -- U.S. Vice President Joe Biden surveyed the massive flood damage in Colorado by air Monday, calling Mother Nature's power "amazing."

Biden, who toured the region hit hard by flooding for nearly two weeks with Gov. John Hickenlooper and Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Craig Fugate in a helicopter after arriving in Aurora about 10:50 a.m.

After the tour, the trio met with members of the state's congressional delegation at Buckley Air Force Base to discuss the ongoing rescue and recovery operation.

The Colorado Springs area was devastated by flooding that began Sept. 11 when heavy rain fell in mountain areas stripped bare by wildfires. The continuous rainfall prompted mass flooding and mudslides. There have been eight confirmed fatalities since the flooding began in northern Colorado with several more individuals missing and feared dead, The Denver Post reported.

During his aerial tour, Biden compared the devastation to what he witnessed in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which struck the East Coast last year.

"Everything was uprooted," he told Hickenlooper. "It is amazing what [water] does."

Damage evaluation was ongoing but so far 1,882 homes had been confirmed destroyed and another 16,000 damaged. Roads in the region also were damaged, with transportation officials estimating 200 miles of roadways will require repairs, as will about 50 bridges.

The human toll climbed, as well, officials said.

Police in Larimer County, one of the hardest hit areas, said they have located the body of Evelyn Starner, 79. The Cedar Cove resident drowned and suffered blunt-force trauma after she was swept away by the raging flood waters. Two other Cedar Cove residents are missing and feared dead, the Post said.

On top of the deaths and damage to personal property, Hickenlooper said oil spills resulting from storage tanks damaged in the floods are another serious concern, though it "could have been 100 times worse."

Hickenlooper toured two Anadarko Petroleum Corp., tank facilities damaged by the floods near Milliken Sunday, ahead of Biden's visit.

Officials estimate 26,000 gallons of oil has spilled at the facility.

Matt Lepore, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, said the commission will investigate all of the spills and their environmental impact, adding he was hopeful floodwaters helped disperse contaminants.

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