Saturday, September 21, 2013

Colorado rescue effort biggest in USA since Katrina in 2005

Rick Jervis in USA Today: The massive search-and-rescue effort after the recent floods in Colorado has been one of the biggest in state history -- and the largest in the USA since Katrina -- as thousands of stranded people are plucked from swirling floodwaters by helicopters or rumbled out of washed-out neighborhoods by all-terrain military vehicles.

TV and camera-phone images of people hoisted by helicopter from flooded homes have brought eerie comparisons with similar efforts to rescue stranded Gulf Coast residents during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The rescues in Colorado were only a fraction of the number in the Gulf -- 3,101 Coloradoans as of Thursday, compared with 60,000 rescued from rooftops and flooded homes in Katrina's aftermath -- but the event still tested Colorado's emergency-response system and brought together the assets of several agencies in challenging terrain.

Unlike the Katrina rescue effort, where critics later pointed to a breakdown in communication among local, state and federal agencies, various rescue teams in Colorado -- from Colorado National Guardsmen to U.S. Forest Service Hotshot Crews -- worked quickly and, by most accounts, effectively together in one of the largest rescue missions in Colorado history, says 1st Lt. Skye Robinson, a Colorado National Guard spokesman.

Six people have been confirmed dead since the floods began Sept. 11, and 140 are still unaccounted for, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"The assets needed arrived and were prepared and went out to mission," Robinson says. "The process went very smoothly. This is how things should work."...

Jamestown, Colorado on September 15, 2013 -- Nebraska Task Force 1 (NE-TF1) conducts search and rescue operation in a damaged building in Jamestown, Colorado following flooding in 2013. Photo by Michael Rieger/FEMA

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