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Colorado floodwaters cover area the size of Connecticut

Flooding in Colorado is forcing thousands to evacuate. At least four people have died, and 170 are missing. Flooding forced the closure of Rocky Mountain National Park.

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For those awaiting an airlift, Guardsmen dropped food, water and other supplies to residents of the winding, narrow canyons that cut through the Rocky Mountain foothills.

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As the waters rose, thousands of people fled mountain and downriver towns, where rivers were still swelling and spilling over their banks Saturday.

One was Mary Hemme, 62, who displayed a pair of purple socks as she sat outside the Lifebridge Christian Church in Longmont. They're a memento of the more than 30 hours she spent in an elementary school in the flood-stricken mountain town of Lyons. Many evacuees — eventually rescued by National Guard trucks — got socks because most of them had wet feet, Hemme said.

She recalled the sirens blared at 2:30 a.m. Wednesday.

"Mary we have to go, this place is flooding," she recalled her friend Kristen Vincent saying as they clambered out of a trailer.

Soon the trailer, like others in the park where she was staying, was submerged.

Hemme said she walked up a hill at daybreak and surveyed the trailer park.

"The most terrifying thing was when I climbed up on that cliff and looked down. It was the meanest, most — I mean, no wonder it carries cars like toys," Hemme said. "I was so afraid that I was going to die, that water came so fast."

The days-long rush of water from higher ground turned towns on Colorado's expansive eastern plains into muddy swamps. Crews used inflatable boats to rescue families and pets from stranded farmhouses. Some evacuees on horseback had to be escorted to safe ground.

The city of Boulder reported late Friday that the rushing waters had caused "a significant breach in its main wastewater pipeline" to the treatment plant, but officials said it would not affect drinking water.

Near Greeley, some 35 miles (56 kilometers) east of the foothills, broad swaths of farmland had become lakes, the Greeley Tribune reported.

Hundreds of roads were closed or damaged by floodwaters, and a 70-mile (113-kilometer) stretch of Interstate 25 was closed from Denver to the Wyoming line.

Rocky Mountain National Park closed Friday, its visitors forced to leave via the 60-mile (96-kilometer) Trail Ridge Road to the west side of the Rockies.

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Neary reported from Longmont. Associated Press writers David Martin in Boulder, Mead Gruver in Fort Collins, and Colleen Slevin and Thomas Peipert in Denver contributed to this report.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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