DENVER (AP/CBS4) – A 79-year-old woman whose house was swept away by the Big Thompson River was found dead on the river bank, authorities said Monday, bringing to eight the death toll from the massive flooding in Colorado.
As the number of people unaccounted-for dwindled to six, Vice President Joe Biden viewed the devastation from a helicopter before meeting with disaster workers.
“I promise you, I promise you, there will be help,” Biden said, trying to mute concerns that a possible federal government shutdown could derail relief efforts.
The latest victim was identified as Evelyn M. Starner. Larimer County authorities said she drowned and suffered blunt force trauma.
Starner was previously listed as missing and presumed dead. Authorities initially said she was 80. She was found Saturday.
Officials announced a 46-year-old man from Drake in Larimer County who was missing and presumed dead was found alive and well and checked in with authorities.
“The man told deputies he managed to climb out of a window in his house before it was swept away by the flood,” John Schulz with the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.
Now only one other person is still missing and presumed dead — a 60-year-old woman from Cedar Cave in Larimer County.
The number of unaccounted for people shrank to six as improving communications and road access allowed authorities to contact 54 people over the weekend who had not been heard from.
“These people are not presumed dead but are listed as missing because their family and friends have been unable to contact them since before the flood,” Schulz said. “In some cases contact with these individuals was sporadic even before the flood and there is no way to be sure they were at the addresses listed.”
The six individuals now listed as missing are as follows:
– James Atwood from 778 Estes Park Estates Drive, Pinewood Springs
– Bruce Bechtel from 1630 14th Street SE, Loveland
– Carl Grunke, from 450 Hillside Lane or 626 Little Prospect Road, Estes Park
– Jon-Erik Huffspater from an unspecified address in Loveland
– Marilyn Powell from 148 Big Pine Lane, Drake
– Michael Williams from 13964 CR 43, Drake
The floods caused damage across 17 counties and nearly 2,000 square miles. Nearly 2,000 homes were damaged or destroyed along with more than 200 miles of state highways and 50 state bridges.
The floods are also blamed for spills of about 27,000 gallons of oil in northern Colorado oilfields, including two mishaps found over the weekend, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission said.
The commission said it’s tracking eight notable leaks, 10 other locations with some evidence of leaks, and 33 places where oilfield equipment appears damaged but no evidence of spills has been spotted. About 1,300 oil and gas wells remain shut down.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it had approved $19.6 million in individual assistance, most of it to help people find temporarily rentals or make house repairs. More than 15,600 people have applied for FEMA relief.
With talk of a government shutdown emanating from Washington, FEMA insisted its aid will continue uninterrupted whether there is a budget impasse or not. The Disaster Relief Fund and FEMA operations on the ground in Colorado won’t be affected, officials said.
“The response in Colorado will not be impacted,” said FEMA spokesman Dan Watson.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has pledged an initial $35 million for roads, and Colorado has allocated $100 million.
Colorado’s congressional delegation is lobbying to raise the Federal Highway Administration’s $100 million funding cap for emergency relief to $500 million – an amount approved after Hurricane Sandy struck Atlantic states last year.
Colorado officials have awarded four contracts for emergency highway and bridge repairs. Officials hope to complete temporary fixes to at least some of the heavily damaged roads by Dec. 1.
Colorado Floods: How To Help
The recent floods are impacting families and communities throughout Colorado, so CBS4 has compiled a list of ways you can support the local communities impacted by the floods.
– By Ivan Moreno, AP Writer
(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)