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Gazette Premium Content Biden in Colorado views flood devastation

The Associated Press Updated: September 23, 2013 at 3:06 pm

DENVER — Vice President Joe Biden is in Colorado for a helicopter tour of flood damage and to survey recovery efforts.

Biden arrived at Buckley Air Force Base and boarded an Army Blackhawk helicopter for Monday's tour. His helicopter flew over flood-affected areas in Broomfield, Boulder, Estes Park, Loveland and Greeley before landing in Greeley, where Biden took a motorcade for a briefing by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

At times it was difficult to see specific flood damage from the air, with the exception of roads wiped out by the flooding. Creeks and rivers were still very swollen along Front Range canyons. Some roads were buried beneath mud. Area reservoirs were full, brimming with brown-colored water.

Biden arrived at a Federal Emergency Management Center in Greeley and was given a tour of the facility by FEMA's administrator, Craig Fugate. Biden was accompanied by members of Colorado's congressional delegation, including Sen. Michael Bennet and Reps. Mike Coffman and Cory Gardner.

Looking at a map of the devastation, Biden said, "I tell you what, man, the water is powerful."

He talked about the damage he saw from the air on his way to Greeley.

"It's amazing what it does," he said, again referring to the water.

Biden greeted workers at a FEMA disaster center in the same facility, shaking hands, thanking them for their work and asking them how they were doing.

"You guys are doing a heck of a job, man," he said.

Biden and Fugate said FEMA has improved since Hurricane Katrina.

"Four or five years ago, or actually a little bit longer, I was down in the Gulf, and I said 'FEMA,' and ducked," Biden joked.

In Greeley, Biden insisted the threat of a government shutdown over the budget won't affect federal aid or recovery efforts.

"There's a reason to be scared but not in terms of disaster relief," Biden said.

Biden promised that government help would not go away when the news camera did.

"I promise you, there will be help. It may take some time in some of your cases," Biden said.

Biden said the $35 million that the federal government has already given the state for road repairs is "obviously not going to be enough." And he said it might cost more than anticipated to fix Colorado roads.

He praised the FEMA personnel who were on the ground, saying the response has changed from five or six years ago — though he did not specifically mention Katrina. And he praised the fact that the FEMA emergency center in Greeley is a centralized location for people to seek help, calling it a "one-stop shop."

"The last thing that they need is to be confronted by a list of alphabet agencies," he said.

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