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Three Missing in Colorado Mudslide

APColoMudslide

COLLBRAN, Colo. (AP) — The search for three ranchers who disappeared after a huge mudslide in a remote part of western Colorado was called off Tuesday as authorities turned their attention toward monitoring for another potential slide.

Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey said the slide remained too unstable to continue looking for the men.

"We don't want to create any more tragedy than we already have," he said.

The three men were checking on problems with an irrigation ditch caused by an initial slide Sunday when a large chunk of a ridge broke off, sending soggy earth spilling like wet cement for 3 miles. The slide is about three-quarters of a mile across and several hundred feet deep at the center.

The men were Clancy Nichols, 51, who also worked as a county road and bridge employee; his son Danny Nichols, 24; and Wes Hawkins, 46, who worked for the local water district.

A depression created by the slide has been filling up with spring runoff since Sunday's big slide, and it is unclear whether it will be able to contain all of it.

Hilkey has said the slide most likely was triggered by runoff from Grand Mesa — one of the world's largest flat-topped mountains — following two days of strong rain.

The slide occurred in a rural area with no structures, but other residents in the vicinity could be affected by another slide. Authorities are considering putting in place an early warning system to help protect them.

Energy companies working in the area — part of Colorado's productive Piceance Basin — have suspended operations. Wells likely will be offline for an extended period, perhaps months, David Ludlam, executive director of the West Slope Colorado Oil & Gas Association, said Tuesday.

Hilkey said there could be another search for the missing men once conditions stabilize. But he said that likely wouldn't be until later in the summer.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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