Colorado 4×4 Rescue and Recovery deployed on the Blizzard in Northeast Colorado twice this week!
We were officially requested by the Morgan County Undersheriff 9:30 Monday morning. As we began building teams to pre-stage in the area Monday evening, we initially staged our SAR Command Staff and 6 teams of two people each at the Morgan County EOC. The storm was expected to really ramp up and start hammering the area with blowing/drifting snow around 3 AM Tuesday morning, so the teams rested up at the EOC and hotels in the area until the first calls came in. And boy did they!
Our fist rescue call for stranded motorists in the area came in around 9:30 AM Tuesday and the teams began to deploy in the storm. The volume of calls steadily increased throughout the day as local emergency services were unable to keep up with the drifting snow. By mid-morning the wind was gusting to 50+ at times, and snow drifts were beginning to really pile up in the 5-10-15 foot deep range along the Fort Morgan/Julesburg line. Basically, the entire I-76 corridor in NE Colorado!
Additional CO4x4RNR personnel were requested during the day and began to arrive by 7 PM Tuesday. With 3 fresh additional 2 person teams, we staged 2 of them in Logan County (Sterling area) at the courthouse and kept the 3rd in the Fort Morgan area.
By nightfall Tuesday, we had deployed 9 teams of 2 rescuers, and additional command/support staff for a total of 24 personnel over 5 operational periods. 60 different calls for rescue in 5 different counties (Weld, Logan, Sedgewick, Morgan, and Washington counties) were ran in just over 24 hours total time, with each vehicle containing between 1 to 4 people each. Most of the folks rescued were taken to area warming shelters setup by community churches, and numerous area hotels provided assistance for those needing rooms overnight.
As the teams came across abandoned cars, they were checked and flagged for people to make sure nobody was left in the storm. Plus, as the teams went back and forth, the flagging was helpful to make sure they didn’t need to stop and re-check the vehicles for occupants.
The initial storm response was demobilized at 2 PM on Wednesday and everyone was finally headed home for some rest by 3 PM.
If you noticed the wind all week long, then you probably noticed that even with blue skies above, the ground blizzard conditions have continued most of the week. NE CO has continued to get pounded with drifting snow closing roads within hours of plows going through to clear them. Friday evening, we were requested to respond back into the area of Logan County for additional stranded motorist rescues.
I-76 had been closed at Brush in both directions for multiple jackknifed semi-trucks, while the team can usually roll through road blocks for blizzard deployments, accident scenes are usually not exempted. So the team deployed through Northern Colorado and headed out on Highway 14 to Sterling. Arriving in town at about 10:30 PM last night, the teams immediately began deploying in the field to get motorist’s vehicles recovered or at least the occupants rescued who had been trapped for most of the day.
As of this posting, the Friday night teams appear to have ran somewhere between 3 and 5 missions overnight and are standing by the area for any calls that may come up today, Saturday morning.
It is critical to pass along that bypassing roadblocks by knowingly going around barricades is dangerous. And taking country back roads to bypass interstate closures can also be deadly. Plows focus on main routes first, and if they cannot keep an interstate clear due to weather conditions, they can’t even try to clear the back roads. You are taking your life in your hands if you circumvent the closures and try to go another way. DON’T DO IT! Some folks had to wait in their vehicles upwards of 8, 10, 12 hours before rescue arrived. You may have a full tank of gas, but snow can drift over the tailpipe and block the exhaust. Or, you could be sitting at such an angle that you’re unable to run the engine for heat. Once that fuel pump sucks air, you’re freezing to death in your own car. ½ tank of gas at an odd angle could mean your engine won’t run due to no fuel going into the pump. Even our teams couldn’t just drive right up to everyone that was rescued. Some folks had to walk a couple hundred yards through waist deep snow in 50 MPH winds to get into our vehicles. Hypothermia can set it extremely fast in conditions like that, not to mention frost bite on exposed skin.
You are always better off to stay home, cancel whatever appointment you have, and wait for conditions to improve. It’s not worth your life to try!
We’d like to thank the entire Northeast Region of Colorado for your trust in assisting stranded motorists and rescuing those from vehicles that were too stuck to pull back onto the roads. To all the Emergency Managers, Sheriffs, Emergency Operations Centers Staff, Colorado State Patrol, Fire Departments, Ambulance Services, and anyone else we could have missed…THANK YOU FOR YOUR TRUST AND SUPPORT!
We’d also like to thank our Title Sponsor, The Edge Automotive, for your generosity and support of our mission over the years. If you ever need anything done on your vehicle, whether it’s offroad modifications on your backcountry rig, or just general service on your daily to/from work driver, please give them a call or check them out at www.theedgeautomotive.com, https://www.facebook.com/TheEdgeAutomotive.
Colorado Rescue and Recovery
We Recover the Rockies! (…and plains when blizzards hit!)