Notes from Meeting, May 29, 2014, Town of Collbran, Colorado.
6:30 p.m. called to order
Introductions: Davis Farrar, Town Administrator for Collbran.
Thank you, wonderful community. The support of families has been wonderful. Also, the water donated for the working search, thank you. Outlines speakers tonight and maps.Reminds all that there are also mics, please speak into the mics so all can hear.
Sheriff Hilkey. Thank you. We want to acknowledge the missing and the love and support of the family.
“Attempting to locate these men will continue to be our goal and objective.”
We are going to talk tonight about our concerns for a second slide.
Seismic activity: “We are here because of the slide event that occurred on Sunday night. The seismology department of CMU has equipment all over the valley and they have given us the information that was recorded. These are the facts we have: Sunday morning, 7:18 a.m. seismic activity occurred. Probably that was when the first slide impacted the irrigation of the area, prompting the men to go to the area. 5:44 p.m. seismic graphs recorded the major slide. Based on what the experts have provided, event duration was only a couple of minutes.
How we are managing this incident: State representative, Governor’s office, geologists and engineers to talk about details. Peter Baier will also be talking about the setup of monitoring to understand the mountain’s activities. Emergency experts are here as well. We also have members of our management team. All are here to answer your questions.
“Essentially, we are trying to outguess the mountain. Difficult, but the best minds are working on it. We are bringing the best people together for you.”
“The difficult task we have,is to attach the monitoring we are setting up, to an early warning system.”
“Unique event, we don’t have all the answers but we will try to get information to you that will help you. We encourage you to register for emergency system alerts.”
“The big problemthat we are having is gathering data. For scientists to give good opinions, we need to gather data. We are gathering this information for them, movement of the mountain, water and occurring where the slide originated.”
Chuck Vale from State of Colorado, State office of Emergency Management.We work daily with your county emergency manager. When something happens, we are available to help the County. When the County requests it, we can askGovernor for approval, and then any agency that can willhelp Mesa County. We are supporting Mesa County with a great incident management team, in total support of the County team and with safety.
Localization effort that we’ve built: Operating under the incident command: SO and US Forest Service. In addition, Plateau valley FD, hydrologists and office of emergency management and governor. City of GJ notification system.Colorado national guard from Eagle, over flights, Colorado State Patrol airplane.Town of Collbran, Town of Collbran Marshall.
USGeological Survey, Jeff Coe. I’m part of Small research group of 10 people in Golden. “Accurate and good information are goals. We classify this as “debris slide” because it is rocky, has trees in it. Below the top, we call it “fast moving earth flow”. The earth flow part moved fast. The ongoing threat is the threat at the top.”
If we think of this as a slice down the center of the slide, “the top of the slide is actively shedding rocks” there is water forming behind this. “Waterfalls are coming off the scarp, and feeding a pond of water.” There are two threats at the top: if this water suddenly stops draining and overtops the pond” there are also threats because the water is leaking onto the slip surface, raising the potential for future movement.”
Plan for how to monitor: 1) remote camera that has it’s eye on the pond, uploading images auto to see what is happening. 2) GPS receivers on the block, to know if it is moving. This will help measure when the block moves. Signal can be viewed remotely. Watch for not just creep, but if there is an increase. 3) Camera that is focused on the face. Dry now, but if we can identify water that is coming off the face that will help us.
Pete Baier, Mesa County Operations Section Chief: Thank you everybody. Took Operations control this week. Multiagency response, USGS scientists, state geological scientists on site, forest service with two people from Montana for the real time camera. Collbran conservation district with water management. We are trying to manage, but not able to manage snow melt. Lots of technical expertise, drainage analysis and water flow analysis through Mesa County engineering.
“For example, we had 15 people out in field today, broken into 4 groups. They performed Water evaluations; weather stations to monitor rain fall events; site reconnaissance; Army Air National Guard to evaluate location for camera and unmanned aerial vehicle to gather information.”
“Still active slide. Still seeing debris movement and watching this is our main focus right now.” “Monitoring will allow us make analysis.”
Snow melt run off, lot of water coming in, but no water coming out. Elevation change is significant, so there is a lot of pressure building up.
“We are not giving up on the search of the missing. We continue to look while in air daily.”
“We are trying to outsmart a mountain. It is very hazardous to place the monitoring devices, GPS etc. It will only be done when it is safe to do so. We hope by tomorrow to have live eyes/camera on this. Another overflight tomorrow. This information will help us provide information to the folks in Golden for the modelling, which will help us with the threat assessment.”
Clancy I knew personally, he was a great man.
Sheriff Hilkey: How to monitor, assess.Our common thoughts are: This is likely. In event of slide, the town will see an increase in Plateau Creek, flooding. Going up the slide area, West Salt Creek, we cannot predict what another slide will mean – but we can tell you what the warning will be.”
“In the event of flood – do not get into your car. Get to high ground on foot.”
“Challenge will be when monitoring is in place, what that means how to trigger early warning.”
Andrew Martsolf: “Mesa County is a “Storm ready community”. Working with weather service to establish warnings. Immediately below the slide is now a pre-defined area for reverse 911. Also working on secondary and tertiary warnings down to the Town of Collbran.Third area down Plateau Creek to the confluence with the Colorado River. When we work with the two agencies we get Reverse 911, and Noah Weather Radio to place in community buildings.”
“When weather warning is issued, the radio will have a human voice that will tell you to go to higher ground, not to drive.” “Weather radio”.In addition to reverse 911 calls.
“Challenge is that this is a new hazard. We do not know how rain will react on this surface. Our concern is issuing false alarms. Until we know what rain events will do on the surface, this may occur.”
“Without monitoring, ability to warn community is very short, very difficult.” “Hope to develop a system to give a longer fused warning system to the community.”
“Working with energy industry to understand….”
“Working to help stabilize this incident. Thank you.”
Kate Porras, Grand JunctionPolice Department: Warning system. 911 Center for all of Mesa County is run by Grand Junction Police Department. Our tool box: our resource to keep you informed is our emergency system. Emergency Notification System will allow us to contact you by cell phone, text, email, land line too. This is very important. We have created short forms to help you so that we can set up your accounts. “Critical for anyone in Mesa County to sign up.We can help you with Fires, floods, law enforcement events. This is helpful for everyone, even if you do not always receive cell phone reception.”
Information list is published around town, and handouts here. Collbran community hotline 970-462-7156. This is set up to allow you receive an answer directly. There will be updates recorded on that. Please leave message if after hours and we will get back to you. National Weather Service: 970-243-0914. Call this number for current updates. Emergency Notifications – go to http://www.GJCity.org. Let us help you sign up, or sign up yourself. Joint Information Center, www.mesacountyjic.com. This website is now set up for Question and Answer–Look for Q&A for the Mudslide, go in and post your comment at the very top, we will get back to you as soon as possible.
Sheriff Hilkey. Opens the floor for questions.
Q: USGS perhaps? Estimated size of the pond at the top end of the slide? Best estimate 7 acre feet. Small. 200 ft x 200 ft, about 5-7 feet.
Q: Is there a way to divert run off from this area? Yes, we have discussed how to divert some of that flow. Water quality expert is looking at this.
Q: Water pooling up behind debris. Why is there no way to let the flow out? 1. We have considered this. Don’t believe that anyone who has not been up there can appreciate how huge block of dirt is – – not easy to break down. At this point, it is not the best way to go. 15-20 cfs per second is coming in. only forming small pond, rest is seeping below debris field. If this is where a dam is building, then we may consider taking some dirt out.” There are cracks appearing in the block, so the area is unstable.
Q: Water event. How bad of a water event? Modelling is not finished. If there is a slide event, the water will escape. Although not a large pool, there is water somewhere. If another slide came down, there will be water put into the slide area and Plateau Creek, which is already bank full. Definitely pushing reverse 911 so that we can alert when our monitoring data tells us we need to warn. Evaluation ongoing, so we can give best information available.
Q: Directional drilling considered to tap into this? Yes, could be feasible during the dry season. Access would be a bugger. Definitely cannot do this now. There is not enough information to ensure safety of that kind of operation now. Technically a great idea. In practice will be more difficult.
Sheriff Stan: Unmanned vehicle, ‘drone’ has mapped the lower area of the slide. This allowed us to understand how deep the slide is, and the flow. We cannot get to the slide top, because cannot reach with the drone. As for recovery, many places are more than 100 feet deep.”
Q: Is there possibility to get cell service in this area? Yes, actually Verizon has been out looking to the area, will have some of this occur, but it is temporary to help with the work. The State has brought this in, and thank you.
Sheriff’s Office considered moving the incident command, but without good communications, we have barriers.
Lots of activity is occurring, just not in Town, due to the lack of good communication access. For example, air coverage, helicopter donated by Century Link.
Q: What can be done to help Town, like sandbags, if there is flooding? Yes, there are boots on the ground to help make this happen. We have engineers running scenarios, if the modelling shows we should buffer, we will.
Town of Collbran also has bags and sand available for residents to use.
Students in Collbran have worked to make sandbags, more than 150 today.
Q: Collbran Job Corps ?? would love command post to be set up in community at their locations…
Q: There is sand and sand bags at end of River Court, by the creek. Lost 30 feet of creek bank today. Job Corp guys got the job done today, and want to say thanks.
Q: Hospice program director. This information is overwhelming, and compliments the information that is coming to us today. Many broken hearts and Hope West will have a team of councilors available for anyone who would like to visit with them. Tomorrow.
Q: Weather spotter locally, sends his information in daily. Sheriff Stan: please Connect with Andy Martsolf please.
Q: Livestock. Would like a coordinated effort to take livestock to certain locations. Andy Martsolf. TriRiver Extension services has helped with this, very willing to help coordinate with livestock and agriculture. There is a 1 sheet information sheet, that will be given to Davis Farrar, for the community to see and use.
Q: Time….when this embankment is dry, what will be done to move it, so we are not worried? We have an objective, but we do not have all the answers. We do not have it all set up yet, but we are looking at that to get you answers. Water commissioners are here, and are evaluating long term recovery event. State Geologist is also working on this, evaluating all situations. “Keep figuring this out, and how to move forward. Who, How, it will all be determined. Agricultural groups will work with you about your water and your land.” About the big block up there. Don’t know what the long term result?
Q: Scale of 1-10, how would you rate this event? A: What part of the event? Slide = large slide. Best guess of flow from top to 30 million cubic meters. Large, but not as large as other things that have happened in the US, ie Mt St Helens. 1985 Utah Thistle landslide, was until recently the largest. It is comproble to this. Oso Washing is 8 million cubic meters. Up top is still 50 million cubic meters.
Q: was the south side damaged? A: South side irrigation canal coming out of Vega was not damaged.
Q: early warning siren in town? A: Davis Farrar, sirens on the police vehicles can be used, as well as loud speakers. FD can also use sirens to warn people. Need to be sure it is good information, so that there are not false alarms.
Q: What are the timeframes for when you tell us….Get the hell out of Dodge? What is the time? A: The emergency manager has explained that the early warning system, when in place, it can occur very quickly. We are setting up the monitoring, to know when to make the warning.
Q: We need to encourage our young people to be like the people here tonight. Educate our young people to be able to do the work that we are seeing here. A: Sheriff’s office will provide people to offer security and protect property from trespassing. There are students who are interested in learning about this. We need to try to balance this.
Q: communication tower, approved? A: yes, we have that tower in the works. Infrastructure is in the way. Q. Yes, want to clarify this will help.
Q: Clarify that in Danny’s obituary we asked in lieu of flowers, that donations be made to the University of Wyoming. Danny Nichols studied geology there, and traveled to learn about it. Danny would want to learn about this event, and working to bring the university here to learn about this.
Conclusion by Davis Farrar: Thank you. Very important to get this information out. Rumors can fly, please ask questions. We will give you the information.
Another note from USGS: “We tried to get West flank of the landslide, today. We would not find a clean path up there. If anyone knows of good access along the west side, please let us know, advise.”
Please be careful. This is not the place to go look. Please be careful.
This is a list of community resources for citizens in the greater Collbran area. This list will be handed out at the Collbran town hall meeting on May 29, it will be posted around the town of Collbran in public places (such as the post office, etc.) and shared via county employees, MCCOA and by social media sites.
Mesa County, Colo. — What do we know now and what has changed? Those are just two of the many questions being asked about the mudslide that occurred on West Salt Creek on Sunday, May 24, 2014, from previous information released to today. The Incident Command Structure has been modified to share responsibility of managing the incident between the U.S. Forest Service and the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office. This established unified structure for management, is equivalent to a Type Three Incident Management Team.
Under this formal management structure are many agencies supporting the operation. Those agencies include, but may not be limited to:
• Mesa County Government
• Mesa County Sheriff’s Office
• Plateau Valley Fire Department
• United State Forest Service
• United States Geological Survey
• State of Colorado Geologist
• National Weather Service
• Colorado Department of Public Safety
• The Office of Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper
• The City of Grand Junction/Regional Communication Center
• The Colorado National Guard – High Altitude Training Center
• The Colorado State Patrol
• The Town of Collbran/Collbran Town Marshal
The on-going work and incident objectives are life safety, trying to determine further slide potential, trying to build monitoring of ground movement and water, building early warning plans and communication plans (i.e. community meeting), and continuing to explore technology use to locate victims in the debris.
Two U.S.G.S. satellites have been tasked to provide daily imagery on the slide area, for comparison to the images provided the day before. The MCSO unmanned vehicle system (UAV) was flown on Monday, May 26, and images gathered from that flight have been compiled and shared publicly. The flight mapped the bottom portion of the slide only. At this time, flights with Colorado State Patrol air support were done on May 27 and 28, to allow geologists and engineers to personally view the site. More UAV flights are planned pending a safe launch site near the top of the slide can be identified and accessed.
Incident Command is trying to determine how and where to place motioning on and near the slide area; Assessing remote camera locations to monitor the slide in real time; GPS equipment placed on various locations throughout the slide to monitor movement of the slide further; Seismology equipment to capture time, strength and other data about movement of the mudslide area and top portion of the ridge. Experts are trying to create a model of an assessment of what a future slide would look like in Salt Creek, to include what effect another slide would have on the population downstream.
Today, a Kiowa and Black Hawk helicopters from the High Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site are scheduled to fly from the Grand Junction Regional Airport to the Salt Creek mudslide with geologists, engineers and others on board to capture visuals of the current mudslide conditions. They will also be visually monitoring the slide, which is the primary method of monitoring we are currently able to do.
With regard to building a warning a system, it will be done with a focus on three tiers of notification areas. Those areas are:
1. Salt Creek Road residents from Highway 330 to the toe of the mudslide
2. From Salt Creek Road to the town of Collbran
3. Below the town of Collbran
The possibility of another slide event in the Salt Creek drainage remains a concern, based on all the information and data gathered thus far. In addition, the instability and current water saturation levels, along with the water pooling in the area behind the slide near its origin, are indicators that a further or additional slide and earth movement could happen any time. The residents along Salt Creek Road have received a letter outlining various means for citizens to gather information, as well as emergency means to notify residents should a need arise. Those notification efforts continue to expand and are fluid.
With regard to the town of Collbran and residents not on Salt Creek Road, it is possible they could experience a water event, which is fairly common for them during annual peak water runoff season. A slide event on Salt Creek Road could push additional water into Plateau creek, causing the water to rise in an already full creek. Further explanation about this will be discussed at the town hall meeting in Collbran, scheduled for 6:30 p.m., tonight in the auditorium.
Finally, as a community resource, a hotline has been established for non-emergency inquiries from the residents in the greater Collbran area. That community hotline is: (970) 462-7156. When it isn’t answered by a live person, there will be a summary update on the message, and an opportunity for citizens to leave a voice message and get a return call.
In an effort to continue providing information and to answer potential future questions from the public, we are providing this link to a list of questions and answers regarding the Grand Mesa mudslide near the Town of Collbran. The public is invited to post a question using the comment feature at the bottom of this posting. We will then do our best to provide answers to those questions as soon as possible.
This feature will be available through the end of June unless there are further developments with this incident.
Want To Donate To the Families Of The #MCMudslide?
Mesa County, Colo.– Anyone interested in donating to the families of Wesley Hawkins, Clancy Nichols and Danny Nichols, should be aware two bank accounts have been established in their names (Nichols & Hawkins).
The Grand Valley Bank in Collbran information is as follows:
Grand Valley Bank
P.O. Box 130
Collbran CO, 81624
Make your check out in either the Nichols Family or the Hawkins Family.
If you have any questions, contact Jennifer at the Grand Valley Bank in Collbran, at (970) 487-0202.
The above YouTube link is the ‘b roll’ video shown at the news conference and given by disk to media, on May 27, 2014. Media is welcome to use portions of this video as needed, giving credit to: Mesa County Sheriff’s Office. The HD version of this video is also located on Drop Box, and the link to that can be sent by email to media, upon request. Email your request for the Drop Box link to: Heather.Benjamin@mesacounty.us & Katie.Berland@mesacounty.us
In light of Sunday evening’s massive mudslide in remote Western Colorado, Mesa County declared a local emergency effective May 27, 2014. The Mesa County Commissioners are expected to ratify the declaration of emergency at their regularly scheduled meeting, Monday, June 2, 2014.
Following a press conference at noon on May 27, 2014, where the Mesa County Sheriff announced the agency will stop search and rescue efforts due to the high risk of further movement of the mudslide and a large body of water that is building up behind the slide area. Tom Fisher, County Administrator, directed the preparation of a Declaration of Emergency.
“The Declaration of Emergency is being done so that the proper resources can be gathered from the State of Colorado and the federal government. It will allow Mesa County, the local residents and Forest Service to properly assess the ongoing risk to life and property in the area. This Declaration is largely being done to assess risk, since we don’t have the expertise or the jurisdiction to fully support the assessment,” states Tom Fisher.
A copy of the Declaration of Emergency is found at Mesa County’s news blog: http://blog.mesacounty.us/
Sheriff Stan Hilkey, Senior Engineer Geologist/Colorado School of Mines, Jonathan White spoke at today’s news conference and answered media questions.
Check out the first part of the news conference here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Tb2tzejEKE&feature=youtu.be
The second half of the news conference: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebtjC9Qt-4
The attached photo is the Google Earth view of the slide top with overlay.