DENVER (AP) — Gov. John Hickenlooper said Monday that Colorado needs to start rebuilding soon after flooding subsides to get people back in their homes and children back to school, and he is asking for assistance from Vermont engineers who helped get that state back on its feet quickly after Tropical Storm Irene two years ago.
The governor said in an interview on KMGH-TV that some people estimate it will take more than a year to rebuild damaged buildings and roads, and he said Colorado doesn’t have that much time.
“We don’t have a year and a half. These kids, if they’re going to go back to their old schools, back to their old homes, we have to get them in place in real time, in a couple weeks,” he said. “Obviously, some of these older bridges, some of these roads … that’s going to take a longer time.”
Hickenlooper is meeting with Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate on Monday to discuss how FEMA is responding.
FEMA has said it is sending two 80-person search-and-rescue teams to assist with continuing rescues in Larimer County. The agency also is providing aid to other communities affected by the massive flooding that began Wednesday along the Front Range.
Hickenlooper said on NBC’s “Today” show that 16 or 17 helicopters would resume searching Monday for residents cut off by the flooding. “Our primary focus is making sure we get everyone in harm’s way out of there,” he said.
“You’re got to remember, a lot of these folks lost cellphones, landlines, the Internet four to five days ago,” he said. “I am very hopeful that the vast majority of these people are safe and sound.”
However, he said, authorities expect the death toll to rise. So far, four people have been confirmed dead in the widespread flooding.
Last month, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said Vermonters didn’t wait for the government to come and help; they grabbed chain saws, shovels and equipment and started digging. However, a number of major construction projects remain undone.
Hickenlooper recounted how he and members of Colorado’s congressional delegation took time out from an aerial survey of massive flood damage Saturday to chip in on the rescue effort.
He said the pilot was able to land the helicopter on a small spit of land next to the raging Big Thompson River, and they picked up six stranded people, a dog and a cat.
“Our bridges are broken. Our roads are broken. Our spirits are not broken,” Hickenlooper said.