Nightly News   |  September 12, 2013

Dramatic images show devastating flooding in Colorado

Flash flooding in Colorado has killed at least three people, left some residents stranded and forced hundreds to seek higher shelter. NBC’s Miguel Almaguer reports.

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>>> we go out west tonight to the state of colorado . a natural disaster of massive proportions there. the death toll stands at three going into the night after widespread flooding. it knocked out power, closed roads forcing hundreds to move to higher ground . the worst has been centered around boulder. miguel almaguer is there for us. miguel , good evening.

>> reporter: we have had steady if not pounding rain all day long in boulder. that is not a river behind me, it's a road. the national guard has been called in after lives were lost. this entire region in a state of emergency .

>> flash flooding is imminent.

>> reporter: a day of chaos and confusion as torrential rain pounds boulder, washing away homes, cars and causing at least three deaths.

>> they may not let you go up that far.

>> reporter: with thousands forced to evacuate, many were trooped by washed-out roads. it started overnight with little warning. gary chambers and his wife were about to abandon their home when they heard a thunderous noise.

>> loud crashing sound. boulders coming down the hill. the deck getting tore off the house. i don't know what all it was. it sounded very destructive.

>> reporter: dive teams were called to perform rescues.

>> do you need a hand?

>> reporter: it was neighbors depending on neighbors to the reach dry ground.

>> something we have never seen here before.

>> reporter: this is what paul talbot saw outside his front door.

>> we're from new england. we have been through some of the worst blizzards, rainstorms.

>> reporter: he's ridden out hurricanes before. this was different.

>> i have never seen rain like this come down for so many days just nonstop.

>> reporter: with part of the university of colorado campus under water, hundreds of students were ordered to higher ground .

>> we are pleading with students and people on campus to stay indoors.

>> reporter: 12 dams have overflowed send ing ale wa wall of water downstream.

>> reporter: 7.2 inches of rain fell in less than 24 hours -- an all-time record.

>> this is insane.

>> yep.

>> reporter: floods devastated the region before. in 1976 , the big thompson flood killed 145 and cost $40 million in damages. from behind his camera, paul sterling watched the water rise, then pour into his home. like so many others, helpless against mother nature .

>> it's b about to come into my down stairs. i'm not even going to go down there.

>> reporter: tonight the damage is still being tallied and the danger isn't over yet. the forecast isn't helping. we'll have steady rain through tomorrow. then off and on rain through the weekend. adding insult to injury, this area burned in a fire a few years ago. that made this area ripe for mud slides, something we have already h begun to see. brian?

>> miguel almaguer in colorado for