Colorado Mudslide Aftermath Too Unstable For Search, Three Men Remain Missing

A mudslide in Colorado on Sunday caused irrigation problems for farmers in the Collbran area. According to the U.S. Geological Survey office, the mudslide was linked to an earthquake which reached a 2.8 on the Richter scale, as well as heavy rain.

Three Colorado men went to the area after the first mudslide in order to discern why irrigation water stopped flowing to ranches by Salt Creek Road. Wes Hawkins, 46, Danny Nichols, 24, and Clancy Nichols, 51, were still in the area when the second, larger mudslide hit.

The second mudslide was over 3 miles long, a half-mile wide, and 200 feet deep in some areas.

Colorado’s Mesa County Sheriff, Stan Hilkey, said. “There’s no doubt the mudslide is tied to the amount of runoff and the rain we got [this weekend]. Everybody on this mountain is praying for a miracle right now. We hope that they may be stranded somewhere, or in such a way that they avoided it. But right now, they have not been heard from.”

Although the National Weather Service labeled the rainfall totals for the area as “not really impressive,” they also said that the area of the mudslide was likely hit harder.

The search for the three Colorado men went on until Tuesday, when officials decided to call off the ground search. The area had been changed drastically by the mudslide and was deemed unstable.

The instability of the area is causing worry about another mudslide possibly burying rescue workers.

Hilkey said, “We’re not able to do what we would like to do. What we would like to do is have every inch of this [area] covered with people if we could. But we don’t want to create any more of a tragedy than we already have.”

Drones and helicopters used in the search have not yet been grounded. They continue to circle the mudslide area looking for any sign that the men are still alive. Officials are utilizing hundreds of aerial photos in the hopes that they will somehow be able to locate the Colorado men.

Hilkey has admitted that they are looking for a “miracle.” The hope is that the Colorado men were not buried by the mudslide, but simply stranded somewhere and unable to get back to civilization.

Cleanup efforts for the mudslide have not yet begun. It is likely that the cleanup will begin much later in the summer, if at all.

“I don’t think that the cleanup will occur. We have to assess how much we can do,” Hilkey said. “I think what you’re looking at is the new terrain of that valley.”

[ Image courtesy of Aaron Ontiveroz, Associated Press/Denver Post ]