After days of cleanup and repairs, transportation officials have reopened several state highways in the aftermath of powerful floods that ripped bridges and roads in northern Colorado, severely restricting travel in populated areas.
With more roads open, the number of people needing emergency shelters is decreasing and state officials hope there will be less congestion.
"Priority number one is opening up these roads right now, but doing it safely," state Department of Transportation spokeswoman Amy Ford said Saturday. "We have been working super hard to make that happen."
CDOT opened six state highways in northern Colorado on Saturday. Another two were opened on Friday.
"I think for a lot of people it's not returning to normal, per se, but it's starting to get there with some of these roads being reopened," Ford said.
Officials also planned to select emergency contractors soon to begin immediate work on mountain corridors where passage is now limited.
Key highways that have reopened include Colorado 119 between County Line and Interstate 25 in Longmont, and Colorado 72 to Colorado 7 in Estes Park. Officials are trying to reopen a stretch of U.S. Highway 34 in Loveland soon, Ford said.
The American Red Cross says 250 people were in shelters Saturday. More than a 1,000 were in shelters at the height of the disaster last week. The number of people unaccounted for was 60 and decreasing. Seven people have died and three others are missing and presumed dead.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has distributed $12.3 million in aid, with most going to housing needs like temporary rentals and repairs.
Meanwhile, state oil and gas inspectors continued monitoring for more spills in flooded oilfields. Another spill of 3,100 gallons was reported Saturday near Milliken, bringing the known volume of oil released since massive flooding began last week along Colorado's Front Range to an estimated 25,000 gallons or about 600 barrels.
State officials will continue surveying the damage at oilfields in the coming days and were tracking 12 locations were other spills could have happened.
Most of the oil releases reported to date came from tanks operated by Texas-based Anadarko Petroleum Co. At least four of the releases reported by the company were in Weld County and spilled oil into the South Platte River or a tributary, according to information submitted to regulators.
Other companies might have suffered similar problems since flooding began last week, but they have not yet been able to assess their damage.
In other developments:
- Funeral services were held Saturday afternoon in Boulder for two flooding victims, 19-year-olds Wesley Quinlan and Wiyanna Nelson.
- The Red Cross is delivering 17 truckloads of provisions to those impacted by the floods, everything from cleaning and hygiene supplies and sleeping bags.
- The Colorado National Guard is helping CDOT in building access trails around impassible sites along U.S. Highway 36. More than 200 national guard civil engineers are helping with the effort.