COLLBRAN, Colo. — Rescue teams resumed the search Monday for three men reported missing after a large mudslide struck in a remote part of western Colorado.
The slide hit Sunday near the town of Collbran, about 40 miles east of Grand Junction and near Grand Mesa, one of the world’s largest flat topped mountains. The Mesa County Sheriff’s Department estimated it measured 4 miles long, 2 miles wide and as 250 feet deep in many places, but it said no structures or major roads were affected.
Mesa County Sheriff’s dispatcher Amanda Orr said three men, all area residents, were unaccounted for. It wasn’t known if they were in the area impacted by the massive slide.
“This slide is unbelievably big,” said Mesa County Lt. Phil Stratton said.
A sheriff’s helicopter was surveying the slide area Monday. Authorities erected a roadblock outside Collbran, a ranching town of about 700 people that also serves as a gateway to outdoor recreation like hiking and fishing, to keep onlookers from the slide area, situated near Salt Creek Road and Vega Reservoir.
The region features mesas and is partially surrounded by the Grand Mesa National Forest.
Rescuers raced to the scene when it was reported around 6:15 p.m. Sunday, sheriff’s spokeswoman Lisa McCammon said. She said the slide area was “very unstable.”
The sheriff’s office said that the person who reported the slide at about 6:15 p.m. “described hearing a noise that sounded much like a freight train.”
The site is in a rural part of the county and there were no reports of any structures damaged or major roads affected, McCammon said. One natural gas well pad was affected by the mudslide, according to the Colorado Oil & Gas Association. The industry group said that companies manually shut down three wells and depressurized and drained pipelines connected to them.
A unified incident command has been established between Plateau Valley Fire Department and the Mesa sheriff, to handle the slide and search for the people possibly caught in it.
Authorities say heavy rains that fell over the weekend contributed to the slide. It’s not clear how much rain fell where the slide occurred. Nearby rain gauges showed that thunderstorms dropped between 0.7 and 1.2 inches of rain over the weekend but the closest gauge is 9 miles away.
National Weather Service meteorologist Tom Renwick said the tally isn’t a very dramatic amount. However, he said it’s possible that a thunderstorm dumped even more rain over the slide area.