An enormous mudslide overtook a mountainside in rural western Colorado on Monday afternoon. After the catastrophe, three men ventured to the site of the mudslide on Grand Mesa to check the source of irrigation water for local farms by the West Salt Creek. The men never returned.
The LA Times reported that the local Mesa County Sheriff, Stan Hilkey, was hopeful the three men lost in the mudslide would be found. However, the mudslide area, which is four miles long and two miles wide, is still shifting. This makes the area very dangerous to explore and difficult for search teams to safely look for the men.
Hilkey made a statement in a televised news conference about the mudslide: “We don’t want to create any more of a tragedy than this already is. We hope they may be stranded somewhere in such a way that they’ve avoided it.”
The mudslide occurred after two straight days of rain, which caused a section of the mountain to break lose and send chunks of snow, rock, and wood onto rural property below. Some areas of the mudslide could contain rubble over 200 feet deep. Sheriff Hilkey went on to explain, “The slide came down with so much force and velocity that it came to a hill and came up and over a hill and came back down — a significant hill… There’s no doubt the slide is tied to the amount of runoff and the rain we got yesterday. That seems very logical to us.”
Shortly after news of the Colorado mudslide broke, Fox News reported that the search for the three men had been called off. On Tuesday, Sheriff Hilkey decided the mudslide area was too dangerous and unstable to continue the search. In fact, another second mudslide is still possible.
NBC News released the names of the men: Clancy Nichols, age 51, his son Danny Nichols, 24, and Wes Hawkins, 46. Hawkins is a road worker, Clancy Nichols works for the Mesa County Road and Bridge Department, and his son Danny is a geologist. The three Colorado residents lived on local ranges.
Heather Benjamin from the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office was optimistic about the survival of the three men. She told the local news, “Those are two small towns up there on the Grand Mesa, which to us would typically indicate that they’re familiar with the terrain. They’re probably very outdoorsy, probably very prepared for the severe weather and being stuck in the mountains overnight, and those kinds of things.”
Colorado has been struck by several mudslides recently, including a similar catastrophe late last year.
[Image courtesy of USAToday]