Flooding in the western U.S. state of Colorado worsened Friday, with thousands of people in and around the city of Boulder forced to evacuate. The city record for rainfall in September set in 1940 has been shattered.
Former VOA editor Scott Herron , who moved to Boulder a year ago, says a friend rang his doorbell around midnight Thursday looking for shelter after fleeing home with his granddaughter.
Herron says he, too, is preparing for the worst.
"I live in the center of town, but up a bit of a rise. I'm in the foothills, and there's lots of water rushing down around me. But I consider us safe. But we're keeping, you know, a grab bag of some valuables, passports, laptops, phones and are ready to get out of dodge [town] if we have to."
The flooding caused by the heavy rains has already killed at least three people. The disaster comes during a major drought in Colorado and follows a string of wildfires, conditions that have added to the crisis.
"When I moved here a year ago, the concern was the forest fires, and forest fires are still a real problem," he said. "And in some ways it makes all this water even worse, because areas of the canyon -- well, several canyons that up go up out of Boulder into the foothills and then into the mountains -- are burned, and so there's no vegetation there to hold the water."
Thursday night, President Barack Obama signed an emergency declaration for Colorado, releasing federal aid and allowing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts.
But Herron says quick-changing weather patterns in the area mean the effects of the disaster might not be short-lived.
"We're only maybe four or five weeks from snow in the high country, so I don't know what that's going to do, because the mountains and the rocks are all loose now from all this water, so we could be feeling this weather pattern for some time," he said.
John Hoffenberg watches the flow of water increase in Boulder, Colorado, Sept. 15, 2013.
An aerial photo of a flood-affected area of northern Colorado along the Big Thompson River, Sept. 14, 2013. (U.S. Air National Guard Handout photo)
An aerial view of vehicles submerged in flood waters along the South Platte River near Greenley, Colorado, Sept. 14, 2013.
Children board a rescue helicopter flown by the U.S. Air National Guard after severe flooding shut down major roads leading out of Jamestown, Colorado, Sept. 14, 2013. (U.S. Air National Guard Handout photo)
Will Pitner is rescued by emergency workers and neighbor Jeff Writer after a night trapped outside on high ground above his home as it filled with water after days of record rain and flooding at the base of Boulder Canyon, Colorado, Sept. 13, 2013.
Boulder Creek flows at high speed next to a road closed off by debris from days of rain and flooding, at the base of Boulder Canyon, Colorado, Sept. 13, 2013.
Nick Carter shovels debris as heavy rains cause severe flooding in Boulder, Colorado, Sept. 12, 2013.
A home and car are stranded after a flash flood in Coal Creek destroyed the bridge near Golden, Colorado, Sept. 12, 2013.
A section of Highway 72 is missing after a flash flood tore through Coal Creek near Golden, Colorado, Sept. 12, 2013.
Matthew Messner looks for a way to cross the sidewalk covered by heavy rains in Boulder, Colorado, Sept. 12, 2013.