Focus shifts to finding missing, tallying washed-out roads, collapsed bridges after Colorado floods

LYONS, Colo. - As water recedes and flows east onto the Colorado plains rescuers are shifting their focus from emergency airlifts to trying to find the hundreds of people still unaccounted for after last week's devastating flooding.

Federal and state emergency officials said more than 3,000 people have been evacuated by air and ground, but calls for those emergency rescues have decreased.

MOR E IMAGES - Colorado flooding: http://bit.ly/17tfakL

The state's latest count has dropped to about 580 people missing, and the number continues to decrease as the stranded get in touch with families.

State officials reported six flood-related deaths, plus two women missing and presumed dead. The number was expected to increase. It could take weeks or even months to search through flooded areas looking for bodies.

State and local transportation officials are tallying the washed-out roads, collapsed bridges and twisted railroad lines.

Dozens of state highways remain closed because of flood damage, KMGH-TV reported..

Many road decks have been washed away and some bridges are damaged or destroyed.

Inspection crews with the Colorado Department of Transportation have already inspected 100 bridges and expect to review more than 1,000 before they're done.

"Right now, we're trying to assess bridges to get people access -- to get access to communities, to get people to safety that need to be there," said CDOT bridge engineer Joshua Laipply. "We're being surgical about which ones we're going to hit first, where there's lower water."

In many cases, inspectors cannot see to the bottom of the structure because the waterways are still running too high.

"Once we establish where that channel bottom is, we go back to the plans that we have on all these structures and we figure out, has the foundation undermined or has it not?" said Laipply. "If it's undermined, then it's questionable and we won't open it."

CDOT is using a triage system to determine what bridges get attention first and said it has plans to focus attention on the communities that have limited access.

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