Sign in to comment!

Menu
Home

Disaster Response

Search called off for 3 missing after Colorado mudslide

Colorado Mudslide_Cham640.jpg

May 26, 2014: The results of a three-mile long mudslide are seen on Grand Mesa, where the slide started, in a remote part of western Colorado near the small town of Collbran. Rescue teams are searching for three men missing after a half-mile stretch of a ridge saturated with rain collapsed. (AP Photo/Mesa County Sheriff's Office)

The search for three ranchers missing after a huge mudslide hit in a remote part of western Colorado has been called off.

Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey said Tuesday the slide remained too unstable to continue searching for the men.

The three were checking on problems with an irrigation ditch caused by an initial slide Sunday when a second, much larger slide hit.

Authorities say the slide is a half-mile long and about 3 miles long. Hilkey says another slide is still possible.

EARLIER STORY:

Rescue teams failed to find any sign Monday of three men missing after a ridge saturated with rain collapsed, sending mud sliding for 3 miles in a remote part of western Colorado.

Clancy Nichols, 51, a county road and bridge employee, his son Danny, 24, and Wes Hawkins, 46, have been missing since Sunday after the ridge collapsed. They went to check on damage from an initial slide near the edge of Grand Mesa, one of the world's largest flat-topped mountains, after a rancher reported that his irrigation ditch had stopped flowing, Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey said.

The search near the small town of Collbran has been hampered because only the lower third of the slide is stable. Even at the edges, the mud is 20 to 30 feet deep. It's believed to be several hundred feet deep and about a half mile wide.

"Everyone on this mountain is praying for a miracle right now," Hilkey said.

Deputies estimate that the entire ridge had been moving for most of Sunday before someone called to report the slide at 6:15 p.m., describing it as sounding like a freight train. Hilkey believes runoff from Grand Mesa from recent rain triggered the slide. A hydrologist from the Natural Weather Service and a geologist from the U.S. Geological Survey were helping authorities assess the situation.

Hawkins' cousin, Bill Clark, said he went along with Clancy and Danny Nichols to check on why an irrigation ditch had stopped flowing because he works for an area water district. He said he has a family and young children.

Clark, who visited the canyon where the slide struck, said it was completely filled with mud. He said the slide struck with so much force that some also spilled over into the neighboring draw.

"I've never seen so much earth move like that in my life," he said.

From a distance of about 10 miles, the slide looked like a funnel, narrowing into a culvert below. It cut a giant channel through trees. The creek that once gradually flowed down the ridge now spurted down like a waterfall. Roads in the area, where some cattle grazed, were muddy from rain.

"How in the devil could this happen?" said Collbran resident Lloyd Power, gazing out at the slide.

He said residents were praying for the missing. "That's all we can do," Power said.

While the surrounding area is popular place for fishing, hiking and camping, the slide hit on land with an access gate that isn't open to the public. No one else is believed missing and no homes were damaged.

Energy companies were monitoring oil and gas wells in the area, part of the productive Piceance Basin, but so far the mud has only come up to the edge of one pad operated by Occidental Petroleum Corp. The three wells there have been shut down, said David Ludlam, executive director of the West Slope Colorado Oil & Gas Association, a trade group.

Hilkey said he'd received a telephone call from authorities in Washington state, where a March 22 landslide swept a square mile of dirt, sand and silt through a neighborhood in Oso, about an hour northeast of Seattle. That slide leveled homes and killed at least 43 people.

Bank Rates

Loan Type Graph Rate +/- Last Week
30 Y Fixed Graph 4.24% up 4.20%  
15 Y Fixed Graph 3.30% up 3.18%  
30 Y Fixed Jumbo Graph 4.66% up 4.53%  
5/1 ARM Graph 3.42% up 3.36%  
5/1 Jumbo ARM Graph 3.88% up 3.63%  
Loan Type Graph Rate +/- Last Week
$30K HELOC Graph 4.29% up 4.28%  
$50K HELOC Graph 4.04% up 4.03%  
$30K Loan Graph 5.09% up 5.08%  
$50K Loan Graph 4.52% -- 4.52%  
$75K Loan Graph 4.52% -- 4.52%  
Loan Type Graph Rate +/- Last Week
36 M New Graph 2.93% -- 2.93%  
36 M Used Graph 3.47% -- 3.47%  
48 M New Graph 3.22% -- 3.22%  
48 M Used Graph 2.98% -- 2.98%  
60 M New Graph 3.24% -- 3.24%  
Loan Type Graph Yield +/- Last Week
6 month Graph 0.35% up 0.34%  
1 yr Graph 0.68% up 0.68%  
5 yr Graph 1.39% -- 1.39%