Army Evacuates Guardsmen, First Responders in Colorado
From a Colorado National Guard News Release
CENTENNIAL, Colo., Sept. 16, 2013 As rain and cloud cover hampered military aviation operations in Colorado yesterday, the rising waters added Colorado National Guardsmen and first responders to the list of flood evacuees.
An aerial view shows flood damage in Colorado, Sept. 14, 2013, due to heavy rains. Soldiers assigned to the 4th Infantry Division’s 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, have been assisting with search-and-rescue operations. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Wallace Bonner
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
At about 4:20 p.m., a mix of 51 Colorado National Guardsmen, first responders and civilians, along with five pets, were reported to be stopped by rising waters in Lyons, Colo. Flood waters rose so high that even the half-dozen Light Medium Tactical Vehicles deployed with the group -- the “go-to” high-mobility trucks that have become the staple of the military’s ground search-and-rescue efforts -- couldn’t ford them, officials said.
In the meantime, the weather in Boulder County broke, so U.S. Army aviators from the 4th Infantry Division from Fort Carson resumed flight operations from the Boulder Municipal Airport. Among their priority missions was to evacuate the 51 people stranded in Lyons.
Aviators flying two helicopters -- a CH-47 Chinook and a UH-60 Black Hawk -- were able to evacuate all 10 civilians and their pets, along with a number of first responders and Guardsmen, before weather took another bad turn and aviation operations were suspended again.
“It’s great to provide support to our neighbors and work with such great professionals,” said Army Col. Robert Ault, commander of the 4th Combat Aviation Brigade. “The first responders have the desire, we have the capabilities and it’s great when we can all come together to help make a difference.”
Of the original 51, 15 first responders and Guardsmen, along with the high-mobility vehicles, are waiting out the flood on higher ground until flight operations resume or the waters become passable, officials said.
Twenty military helicopters and crews were scheduled to conduct evacuation operations yesterday, but most were grounded for much of the day as heavy rain and low ceilings hampered visibility, causing flight safety issues for much of the day.