(BOULDER, Colo.) — Rescuers are rushing in to help those trapped by the rising floodwaters of Colorado, as neighborhoods and entire highways have been washed away by the catastrophic currents.
Four people are dead and more than 170 people are unaccounted for as the ferocious flooding continues to rip through the Centennial state.
A missing 60-year-old woman is a presumed fifth fatality, the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office said Saturday.
With record rainfall plaguing Boulder, Auroro, Colorado Springs and El Dorado Springs, and more anticipated this weekend, communities are holding onto hope that they may be able to return to their homes soon.
The rains have washed out areas of New Mexico and Texas, forcing evacuations and making countless roadways impassable.
While President Obama declared a state of emergency and promised FEMA relief for the most devastated areas on Friday, it is unclear when the region will catch a break from the growing floods.
Colorado residents are shaken by the devastation, as they watched their communities crumble before their eyes.
“The neighbors’ house fell off into what was a little creek – it’s now a raging river – it got swept away, gone,” evacuee Lauren Townsend told ABC News. “There’s pieces of houses, appliances floating down [the river].”
“There’s no other word but catastrophic,” one member of the National Guard told ABC News. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”
The National Guard worked to airlift nearly 300 residents out of the stranded community of Jamestown, leaving residents wondering what will still be standing once they are allowed to return to their homes.
In Weld County, Colo., mobile homes have become toppled and submerged by the inconceivable flooding. As some residents try to plow out of the area in pickup trucks and on horseback, farmlands have become isolated on islands in the historic flooding.
As crews help to pull people from harm’s way – pulling residents to safety on zip lines – one man said he is forever grateful to the rescuers who saved him from succumbing to the floods.
Roy Ortiz was on his way to work when his Pontiac Grand Prix got flung into the rapids on Thursday, as the roadway gave out to the flash flooding.
Ortiz was trapped in his overturned car and quickly sinking into the waters, with only a small pocket of air sustaining him as he waited for rescue crews to bring him to safety.
Once they arrived, Ortiz started knocking on his car “so they knew I was alive.”
“Until we saw his hand waving at us in the window, we didn’t know that anyone or how many people were possibly trapped inside the vehicle,” said firefighter John Cook, who was one of the first to arrive to the scene.
Ortiz, a father of four, said he was able to stay calm in the perilous waters by thinking of his family.
“I had to pray because I wanted to survive,” he said.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Tom LoBianco, Deirdre Walsh and Tal Kopan, CNN
John Clyde, KSL.com
Shimon Prokupecz, CNN