Video: 3 missing after ‘unbelievably big’ mudslide in Mesa County

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MESA COUNTY, Colo. -- Emergency crews were searching a large mudslide in Mesa County for three missing men Monday afternoon.

The slide occurred Sunday along Salt Creek Road in Collbran in the Vega State Park area, police said.

It's a close family, but it has been tough.

FOX31 Denver photojournalist Cody White's family lives in Collbran. He heard about the mudslide and called his uncle Clancy Nichols. Nichols, his son Dan and Wes Hawkins are the missing men.

"I got his voice mail. I said uncle Clarence, I just heard about a mudslide in Collbran. I was just calling to see how you`re doing. Hope you`re ok," White says.

Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey said the word "massive" does not even begin to describe the slide or the damage it caused. "The power behind it was remarkable," he says.

Hilkey talked about the scene at a midday news conference. He said a "big chunk" of the mountain that is part of the Grand Mesa basically broke away from the rest of the mountain. "There's still a gigantic mound of dirt that looks unstable that could cause a secondary slide to come down on top of the first slide."

The Grand Junction Sentinel reports rescuers sent teams from either end of the slide to look for the three men.

The sheriff says they were likely checking irrigation infrastructure in the remote area when the mudslide happened. They went to check on the slide and it's believed they may have been caught in a second slide.

The slide is two-and-a-half to three miles long and a half-mile or more wide. The mud debris at the bottom of the slide is 20 to 30 feet deep according to the sheriff. It may be 250 feet deep in places on the slope.

The mudslide followed a day of rain and is located about 11 miles southeast of the town of Collbran, a community of about 700 people in western Colorado.

Cody's family is not losing hope. "They`re all together. It`s somber, but my mom says everybody there is strong. Obviously hoping for the best," he says.

There were no reports of damage to structures in the remote area.

However, there was a report by the West Slope Colorado Oil & Gas Association that one active natural gas production facility east of Collbran was affected by the slide.  The association says wells had showed no signs of spills or releases, but all of them had been shut down manually as a precaution.

"Investments in training and technology allowed our member companies to remotely monitor and manually shut down the small number of wells at risk," said David Ludlam, the executive director of the association. "We believe all potentially affected natural gas locations are secure.”

Roadblocks had been set up to keep people from the rural slide area. Conditions are described as "very unstable" by authorities. However, since the mudslide is about 26 miles south of I-70 on the Grand Mesa, I-70 holiday traffic was not expected to be impacted.

Authorities took a helicopter ride to survey the damage Monday Monday afternoon.

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