LONGMONT, Colo. (AP) — Airlifts gave way to door-to-door searches Wednesday for victims injured and killed in the flood-scarred Colorado foothills, as authorities began ramping down emergency operations and beginning the "long and arduous" recovery phase.
Urban search-and-rescue teams with dogs and medical supplies began picking through homes, vehicles and debris piles for victims as the number of people reported missing dwindled from a high of 1,200 to just about 300.
They also are documenting the damage they find, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said.
It is part of responders ending the "high-octane" emergency response to dayslong flooding that began last week "and moving into the long and arduous task ahead," Pelle said.
Some of the helicopters that have been used for emergency airlifts may be returned to Fort Carson, where they will be on standby, Colorado National Guard Lt. Mitch Utterback said.
Rescuers were trying to make contact with 450 people who remained stranded in Larimer County north of Boulder, but it was unclear how many of those people actually want to leave, sheriff's spokesman John Schulz said.
He warned those who stayed behind that they may be stuck there as the emergency operations end.
"The (military) air resources are going to be going away here very soon," Schulz said. "Larimer County has no air resources, once they're gone we're not going to be able to get those people for a very long time."
Business owners were being allowed back into the heavily damaged town of Lyons on Wednesday to assess the damage, and homeowners under mandatory evacuations were expected follow Thursday.
Many homeowners ignored the evacuation orders to stay with their homes, and they waved off rescue helicopters flying overhead.
Displaced Lyons residents and music fans took their traditional Tuesday night bluegrass jam to the nearby town of Longmont, where they comforted each other and raised money for two musicians who lost instruments in the flood.
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