Snowmelt Blamed for Western Floods

A river in southwestern Colorado (search) spilled over its banks Wednesday, sending fast-moving water into a trailer park and forcing families to scramble through thigh-deep water to protect their belongings.

"It was scary. It sounded like we were sleeping in the river," Louise Suazo said as water from the swollen La Plata River (search) rushed under her home.

Several rivers in southwestern Colorado are cresting this week after days of hot weather and melting snow. Water levels are expected to remain high through the Memorial Day weekend, National Weather Service hydrologist Brian Avery (search) said.

"It's not over and it won't be over until at least next week," he said.

In neighboring Utah, a missing elderly woman was found dead Wednesday in an ordinarily moderate creek sent rushing by melting snowpack. Cynthia Lark, 76, has dementia and was thought to have wandered away.

In Hesperus, 240 miles southwest of Denver, dead trees and other debris forced the La Plata over its banks and into the Pinewind Trailer Park. Residents slogged through the water to dig diversion ditches, hoping to steer the water away from propane tanks and electrical wiring.

Six of the homes either were surrounded by water or had water flowing beneath them. Gas service was turned off, and most residents had lost phone service.

Avery said most major flooding has been in southwestern Colorado, where the water is reportedly the highest it has been since the regional drought began about six years ago.

Avery said authorities were concerned boaters, rafters and kayakers would be drawn to high rivers, despite dangerous and icy conditions.

"We're trying to encourage people to be very safe or just avoid the water altogether," Avery said.

Rescue workers have pulled 18 people from the Animas River in the past five days and county officials planned to monitor popular bridges after a 23-year-old man was rescued — and arrested — after jumping into the torrent from a bridge Tuesday. He was dared by friends to leap.