BOULDER, Colo. — As rescuers broke through to flood-ravaged Colorado towns, they issued a stern warning Saturday to anyone thinking of staying behind: Leave now or be prepared to endure weeks without electricity, running water and basic supplies.
National Guard helicopters and truck convoys carried the admonition into paralyzed canyon communities where thousands of stranded residents were eager to escape the Rocky Mountain foothills. But not everybody was willing to go.
Authorities made clear that residents who chose not to leave might not get another chance for a while. Rescuers won't go back for people who insist on staying, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said.
"We're not trying to force anyone from their home. We're not trying to be forceful, but we're trying to be very factual and definitive about the consequences of their decision, and we hope that they will come down," Pelle said.
Special education teacher Brian Shultz, 38, was torn about leaving his Jamestown home.
"I was thinking about staying. I could have lasted at least a year. I have a lot of training in wilderness survival," he said.
His wife, Meagan Harrington, gave him a wry smile. About 10 of their neighbors declined to evacuate, she said.
"They said they wouldn't force you, but it was strongly encouraged," she said.
Across the foothills, rescuers made progress against the floodwaters. But they were still unable to go up many narrow canyon roads that were either underwater or washed out.
Four people have been confirmed dead since the harrowing floods began Wednesday. And hundreds of others have not been heard from in the flood zone, which has grown to cover portions of an area nearly the size of Connecticut.
The military put more troops on the ground and helicopters in the air to aid in the search-and-rescue effort.
By Saturday night, 1,750 people and 300 pets had been evacuated from Boulder and Larimer County, National Guard Lt. James Goff said.
The airlifts will continue today with helicopter crews expanding their searches east to include Longmont, Fort Collins and Weld County.
It was not clear how many people were still stranded.