Evacuation watch issued for old landslide

Posted at 8:21 AM, May 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-27 20:42:27-04

A reverse 911 warning was issued to residents living near an old landslide on the Western Slope Friday morning after a surge of water cut a new channel in the slope.

It was two years ago, this week, that three people were killed in a massive landslide on the Grand Mesa at Collbran, about 40 miles east of Grand Junction.

At 4:45 a.m. Friday, a pond at the landslide released water. An hour later, a new drainage channel, or crevasse, was cut in the mass of the landslide, according to the Mesa County Sheriff's office.

(PHOTO: Courtesy Mesa County Sheriff's Office)

The crevasse is about 2,400 feet long and 100 feet deep, Peter Daier, the Director of Public Works for Mesa County told Denver7.

Officials said Mesa County initiated Response Level Two of the Emergency Preparedness Action Plan.

That means residents are being told to be prepared to leave.

"Right now the landslide is doing what we want and expect it to do," the sheriff's office said Friday morning. "However, if Mother Nature decides to take more land down, we want residents to be ready to evacuate."

"Road and Bridge equipment is being staged in Collbran as well as thousands of sand bags in the event flooding becomes an issue," officials said.

The sheriff's office said at 7:30 a.m., GPS monitoring has showed no land movement. At 2 p.m., the sheriff's office issued an update saying there was still no movement, "which is exactly what we want to see."

Officials said the initial water surge made it through the town of Collbran without overflowing the banks of Plateau Creek, but there are reports of erosion on Salt Creek Road, a local county road.

Salt Creek Road, otherwise known as 61 ½ Road, will remain closed due to localized flooding, officials stated at 2 p.m.

(PHOTO via Peter Daier)

"The initial surge of water from the West Salt Water Landslide water release has passed," the sheriff's office said in the 2 p.m. update. "The level of the pond at the top of the Landslide is stabilizing as water continues to flow down the land mass at a slower rate than initially observed this morning."

A Flood Watch is in place until further notice, officials said.

"Mesa County will remain at Response Level Two and will continue to monitor the situation over the weekend," the sheriff's office stated. 

Daier told Denver7 this is one of the scenarios officials had planned for and they are glad it occurred because it relieved the pressure on the land around the pond.

Daier said they have had help monitoring the area from local, state and federal agencies for the last two years and because of that they had a plan in place and were able to respond quickly. Heavy equipment was already staged for such an event and sand bags were ready, Daier told Denver7.

The Colorado Geological Survey said the landslide that happened in 2014 is the longest landslide in Colorado’s historical record. The landslide was 2.8 miles long and covered almost a square mile of the West Salt Creek valley.

Eight monitoring devices have been placed on and near the slide area. The devices include cameras, a pressure transducer and two rain gauges.

The slide killed 46-year-old Melvin Wesley Hawkins, 51-year-old Clarence Allen "Clancy" Nichols and Nichols' 24-year-old son, Daniel Allen Nichols.

Their bodies haven't been found.

MORE | See aerial images of the slide from 2014


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