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In Lyons, residents took shelter on higher ground, including some at an elementary school, before National Guard convoys pushed through the water.
Dawn Lundell and John Johnson decided not to wait, instead hiking from the town through 200 yards of water in a canal. They described a "calm, reasonably festive" atmosphere among those who remained.
"Nobody minds roughing it a little bit in Lyons. We’re all outdoorsy people. We call it Mayberry. Everybody helps each other," Lundell said.
By Friday afternoon, National Guard helicopters had rescued almost 300 people who got stuck in the small community of Jamestown, northwest of Boulder. County spokeswoman Liz Donaghey said two choppers were airlifting as many people as they could carry.
Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said he expected to evacuate 2,500 people by the end of the Friday. Supplies were being airdropped to those awaiting help in Jamestown.
The weather service warned Friday of more flash flooding in Loveland. In the town of Drake, the Big Thompson River was more than 4 feet above flood stage. The Big Thompson caused the deadliest flash flood in state history in 1976, when about a foot of rain fell in just four hours, killing 144 people.
Jose Ayala spent Friday morning picking through what was left of his family’s possessions in their two-story farmhouse near Berthoud. He and his sons watched the waters rise all Thursday evening, finally making the decision to flee at 11 p.m. with some documents and a computer.
"The rest is in the house. All gone, basically," Ayala said.
Some of the flooding was exacerbated by wildfire "burn scars" that have spawned flash floods all summer in the mountains. The flames strip away vegetation that normally helps absorbs excess water and leave a residue behind that sheds water.
Authorities raised the death toll to four Friday after finding the body of a woman who was swept away Thursday after the vehicle she was riding in got stuck in water north of Boulder. A man in the same vehicle died after he got out trying to help her.
One person was killed when a structure in Jamestown collapsed. Another man was found dead in a Colorado Springs creek.
Rain from the same storm also drenched drought-stricken New Mexico, sending rivers out of their banks, closing roads and stranding children at schools. Evacuations were reported from Las Vegas to Truth or Consequences.
Associated Press writers Colleen Slevin, Steven K. Paulson and Thomas Peipert in Denver contributed to this report.
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