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How a Colorado boulder broke off from a mountainside and broke the Twitter machines

Posted at 4:49 PM, Jan 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-28 20:50:19-05

DENVER — Rocks and boulders on mountainous roads are just some of the hazards Colorado drivers have to watch out for. But when a large boulder fell onto a highway in San Miguel County Monday, it not only caused an inconvenience for drivers who are used to the sight, it created a large internet sensation the size of a small internet sensation.

What made Twitter’s meme machines work overtime Monday? It was a tweet from the San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office warning motorists of a road hazard, it read, “Large boulder the size of a small boulder is completely blocking east-bound lane Highway 145 mm78 at Silverpick Rd. Please use caution and watch for emergency vehicles in the area.”

Did you catch the typo? We’re sure you did, and we did too. But why make a large molehill out of a small molehill? Because it’s funny (kinda), and Twitter doesn’t shy away from small molehills – it becomes boulder (did you see what we did there?)

They probably meant to say the boulder was the size of a small vehicle, but it was too late to send a correction. The internet latched on and wouldn't let go. The department did send a subsequent tweet clarifying the size of the boulder:

"The boulder that fell onto Highway 145 at Silverpick Rd outside Telluride was approximately 4ftx4ftx4ft (64 cubic ft) and weighed about 10,000lbs. No injuries or vehicle damage. Eastbound lane blocked for about 30 mins until a snow plow was able to move the boulder off highway," the tweet read.

How a Colorado boulder broke off from a mountainside and broke the Twitter machines

However, the moment after the now infamous first tweet was sent, the likes, retweets and replies began pouring in. As of Tuesday afternoon, the tweet has more than 174,000 likes, over 33,000 retweets and 7,000 replies – no doubt one of the small department’s largest impact on twitter (much like a bigger department’s even larger impact).

Some of the replies read, “Looks a bit like a small boulder the size of a large boulder to me, but I can see how an untrained eye would confuse them.”

Others got philosophical:

And of course, the SpongeBob memes were in full force:

And some had us literally laughing out loud:

Of course, these are just a small sample of the thousands of replies, memes and oddities that flooded the internet. Who knew a large boulder could have such a large impact?

The person responsible for the tweet talked to Denver7 Tuesday. The public information officer for the San Miguel County Sheriff's Office, Susan Lilly, said she meant to type "a small car" instead of "small boulder."

"I know on Twitter you can't edit, and so I remember reading it and rereading it, and my mind saw 'large boulder the size of a small car,' and so I hit send, and there it went," Lilly said.

Lilly said that regardless of the typo, they wanted to make sure the public was aware of the hazard.

"This wasn't unlike any other public safety issue out there," she said. "Whether it be a rock slide or a mudslide, we want to let our motorists know, so we use social media to get that information out. That's one of the most effective methods we have."

Lilly said she immediately realized her mistake and wanted to send out correction along with an apology, but the sheriff saw the humor right away.

"By the time I realized, it was already gaining traction," Lilly said. "At first, I was thinking, 'Oh no!' I called the sheriff, and I said, 'Hey, I made a mistake, and I need to apologize.' And he said, 'Ah, whatever. It's kind of funny.' We didn't think it was as funny as everyone else thought it was."

Lilly said the tweet will now go down in history in the county with a population of only around 9,000.

"We've had some dramatic rescues of the side of a mountain. We've had Jeep rescues, and that might get shared or viewed over 100,000 times. We're not Denver metro; we're Telluride, Colorado with a population of 2,200. The county has about 9,000 residents. So to have something reach 100,000, it stands out for us."