Nightly News   |  September 16, 2013

Floodwaters isolate Colorado residents

Water still cordons off some areas five days after the flooding began. Airborne rescue helicopters hope to locate and evacuate residents. NBC’s Kate Snow reports.

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>>> now to the other front we are covering tonight and have been for days on end. we shift our coverage to boulder, colorado , where today they officially set the all-time record for rainfall. it has resulted in a desperate situation there, as you know. the latest numbers from there are grim. seven people confirmed or presumed dead . at least 19,000 homes destroyed or damaged to say nothing of the estimated 30 bridges that are out. most urgently, hundreds of people are still officially unaccounted for. in a moment, an extraordinary view of it all from just above the unfolding situation. but first the very latest from the ground against this fight against water in boulder, colorado . our national correspondent kate snow is there for us tonight. kate, good evening.

>> reporter: good evening, brian . it is believed to be the most massive aerial search and rescue effort since hurricane katrina . all afternoon helicopters ferried people out of neighborhoods and towns completely shut off from the outside world . there are still more people waiting.

>> we have a long ways to go, folks.

>> reporter: before dawn this morning dozens of agencies coordinated rescue plans, hoping the rain that pounded boulder overnight and all day sunday would finally let up.

>> the helicopters are ready.

>> reporter: by mid-morning, a break. battalion leader lieutenant colonel tyler smith suited up and took off in search of the most vulnerable.

>> once you cross into the mountains you can see the water flow. many roads are washed out. people are stranded geographically.

>> reporter: stranded until today. our cameras were on board for the rescue. children with backpacks, families with pets, people in wheelchairs and walkers, all back on high ground . they have been told to write s.o.s. messages on the driveways, use sheets or flags, anything to draw a chopper's attention.

>> anything you can do to get our attention, we'll stop.

>> reporter: the roads are treacherous and only go so far. we headed up left-hand canyon in military vehicles with a search and rescue squad out of utah. do you know if there are a lot of people in there or you have no idea?

>> we don't know. my understanding is it's an area that hasn't been looked at yet.

>> reporter: the team finds homeowners who want to stay put.

>> they are recommending evacuation. there obviously won't be ser vises available to you for they don't know how long.

>> reporter: five days in there are entire towns cut off. for the first time we are seeing what life is like in jamestown.

>> the creek kept rising. it started taking out houses. we watched one by one houses just cracking off and going into the creek.

>> reporter: at boulder's command center they are reaching some people using ham radio s.

>> everything okay? water, whatever?

>> we have no way of re filling the tanks. once the water runs out, it's going to get bad.

>> reporter: trying to make contact with the missing, one person at a time. mike horn thought his wife of 38 years, florence, was missing. water rolled their house into the river. they were separate ed.

>> he said, where's your wife. i said, i think she 's lost.

>> reporter: but she survived, rescued by a good samaritan.

>> the most brave man in the world to jump in that water.

>> reporter: the good news tonight is as people are connecting with rescuers, connecting with law enforcement , they are finding out those people are accounted for. the number of unaccounted is going down. the bad news, the governor thinks the death toll will rise here. brian , tonight there is still a flash flood watch in effect for parts of colorado . brian ?

>> kate snow starting off our coverage from colorado . thanks.