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AP photo/U.S. Army, Sgt. Jonathan C. Thibault This photo released by the U.S. Army, Staff Sgt. Jose Pantoja, a flight medic with the Colorado Air National Guard, carries an unidentified evacuee up a hoist onto a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter Sept. 16 during flood rescue and recovery operations near Boulder, Colo. Military helicopter crews had flown hundreds of missions up the treacherous canyons of the Rocky Mountains to rescue about 2,000 people, and counting, and drop food and water supplies to stranded hamlets.
AP Photo/Denver Post,Joe Amon, POOL A Blackhawk helicopter is flies over a canyon during a helicopter search of the area around Boulder, on Tuesday, Sept. 17. The Office of Emergency Management says that the weather is expected to be clear enough to allow helicopters to take to the skies to rescue flood victims.
One week after storms caused historic flash flooding from Wyoming to Colorado Springs on the Front Range, one of the United States' most visited national parks remains inaccessible.
The son of former Bureau County resident Ruth (Horton) Dunnell, Greg Dunnell of Niwot (east of Boulder) confirmed that the damage to highways and homes is like nothing he has ever seen or imagined.
It's not just a few portions of highways along the Thompson River and other smaller rivers that descend from Rocky Mountain National Park that are destroyed, it's miles of destroyed and damaged highway. As a casual observer, he couldn't imagine how long it would take to repairs some of the highways along mountain rivers and streams.
As of Sept. 19, the park service was accessing the park only from Trail Ridge Road. In other words, the only way to the most familiar parts of the park was from the west from Grand Lake.
And that's not for sightseers. It's for "essential" traffic, according to the Rocky Mountain National Park website which still had the following message posted on Thursday:
"Thursday, September 19, 2013 — Trail Ridge Road is open from Grand Lake to Estes Park for essential travel only. Essential travel is currently defined as community residents, family members of community residents providing support, emergency services, and delivery trucks. Truck length may not exceed ninety feet. No other east bound traffic will be allowed, even for visitors with advance plans and reservations in the community. Trail Ridge is open to all travel west bound from Estes Park to Grand Lake. US 34 and US 36, on the east side, are closed to ALL traffic."
Estes Park News noted Estes Park residents late this week finally did have a circuitous route they could take.
Further, The Associated Press noted that Trail Ridge Road had snow on Thursday and typically closes because of snow sometime in October. An AP writer called that closure "a sign of things to come." Trail Ridge Road reaches an elevation of 12,183 feet and crosses the International Divide at Milner Pass, 10,759 feet.
And if you're thinking maybe the way to get to the Colorado mountains would be to take Amtrak to Winter Park, that's not an option right now either.
The Associated Press reported on Thursday: "Amtrak said its Chicago-to-San Francisco California Zephyr train will be detoured through early October because of track damage in the Front Range foothills. Passengers will take buses to Glenwood Springs and Grand Junction, Colo., and to Green River, Helper and Provo, Utah, until repairs are completed."
Sept. 23 update Update: Trail Ridge Road was closed briefly Sunday, Sept. 22 due to snow. It's still only open to "essential travel", not for tourists or gawkers, between Estes Park and over the pass to Grand Lake.
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