The numbers of those still unaccounted for after the flooding that devastated the Front Range continue to fall. Over the weekend in Larimer County, for instance, the total dropped from sixty to six.
But while that's certainly good news overall, it's accompanied by plenty of concerns about whether those who still haven't turned up actually lost their lives. As such, the Larimer County Sheriff's Office is making plans to release names of those who've yet to be found and treat them as missing persons.
Yesterday around noon, the following tweet was issued by the LCSO:
Unaccounted people remains at 60.
— Larimer Sheriff (@LarimerSheriff) September 22, 2013
By the early evening, however, the digits had changed substantially, as can be seen in this follow-up tweet:
Unaccounted for now at 6 after a productive weekend by search crews make contact with most people on the list.
— Larimer Sheriff (@LarimerSheriff) September 23, 2013
Of course, the remaining six people could turn up safe, just as did the 54 the sheriff's office was able to eliminate from its list yesterday. But as time passes, the odds of negative outcomes increase. Indeed, LCSO spokesman John Schulz told 7News that the current fatality total of three in the county is expected to rise.
"I think one of the things we will begin to see as the week progresses and the river continues to drop, we'll begin to see bodies showing up in different places," Schulz said to the station. "We're just hoping that number is as low as possible."
He added that those whose whereabouts are unknown will likely be named this week, and their status will be reclassified as missing.
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Yesterday, meanwhile, Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith shared the following message with residents on the LCSO Facebook page:
What does the beginning of week 3 bring?
Week 1 (Wed to Sat) was pretty much organized chaos as we struggled to warn and rescue residents during thee flood event. We ordered up the necessary resources to meet the challenge.
Week 2 (Sun-Sat) was focused on assembling those resources and implementing the search and rescue plan. During that time around 1,200 survivors were evacuated and the numbers of unaccounted for went from the mid 400s down to 6. Additionally, untold structures were searched and the monumental task of road and utility recovery was begun.
Now, as we start our 3rd week of operations, there is another major shift. The type 2 Incident Management Team will be transitioning the operation back to our local management folks, going back down to a local type 3 team. That is scheduled to occur tomorrow. Along with that, the incident command post will roll back into our emergency operations center at the Sheriff's Office and my staff will be working on determining longer term staffing plans since we will lose the guard assets for checkpoints and daily air operations, the USAR teams and the overhead team. We need to accomplish that without completely depleting the men and women of the LCSO and LC Search and Rescue.
My horse posse has been organizing plans over the weekend to get back into the canyon on horseback to patrol and to help us better scout the land to determine where owners can an can't get to. We know the fall weather is here and if possible, owners need to winterize properties in the flood zones. We've also been working with the Boulder County officials to better sync our operations on the areas that essentially straddle the Larimer / Boulder County line. We know that in order for certain Larimer County residents to return, they have to get through Boulder County's checkpoints. That is improving.
We are also working to assure that recovery efforts balance the need for speed with the need to consider the impact on residents of the affected areas. There will be some conflicts that were not anticipated or intended. As I committed to residents at the Friday meeting, as your Sheriff I will do my best to be your voice in this. The operations this week will transition more to the county managers' office as we move to an operation that is much more focused on recovery than it is on rescue operations. However, the LCSO will continue to be a strong partner with the community as we all struggle to recover.
Let's all continue to be Mountain Strong!
More from our News archive: "Photos of the Day: Shocking flooding damage in Boulder and Larimer counties."