hammer East Animas
Last week, La Plata County
experienced its worst flooding to date as a result of the Missionary
Ridge Fire. Substantial rainfall and devastation hit last Saturday
and returned Tuesday evening as La Plata County crews worked
to fight the flows.
Rains on Saturday impacted Florida Road, County Road 501 and
County Road 250 (East Animas Road) with mudslides and high water.
County Road 250 was hit hardest when just less than an inch
of rain triggered mud flows and rock slides. Six families were
forced to leave their homes, and another 12 families had debris
in their homes. In addition, 700 customers were trapped by flooding
on both sides of the Bar D Chuckwagon.
Tuesday evening, as residents
and crews were working to clean up the weekend devastation,
heavy rains returned. Again County Road 250 felt the brunt.
“All of the drainages ran fairly big,” said Rick
Routh, county engineer. “Steven’s Creek ran really
big. We had six feet of material on the road.”
Routh added that the debris
has dropped off slightly, saying, “There’s still
tons of debris, but not as much as past events.”
On County Road 250 and County
Road 501, crews worked hard to keep the roads open.
“The crews worked all
night,” Routh said. He added that the county is trying
to replace culverts with larger ones but needs breaks in the
“We’ll just keep
persevering whenever it gets dry,” he said.
As for possible relief from
future flooding, Routh said, “It would be premature to
say that. At anytime we could get a 2-inch storm that could
cause us to lose significant stretches of road way.”
Joanne Spina, spokesperson
for La Plata County, added, “What’s important to
remember is that this is a long term proposition and that as
these events occur our road and bridge emergency crews are doing
everything they can to stay on top of this. County residents
should be very proud of the county’s emergency management
and road and bridge crews.”
Routh was quick to add that
the real concern remains residences below canyons and drainages.
“Structures are and will continue to be at risk,”
Spina concurred that the biggest threat was to residences and
people. “No one is evacuated, but we are obviously on
a state of high alert whenever we have flash flood alerts,”
Bear ransacks Durango’s
Southsiders lazing about Sunday morning
experienced an unusual if not rude awakening: Durango Police
on a loudspeaker informing them to stay inside their homes.
Sacred Heart churchgoers spilling out of
9 a.m. mass also were greeted with a warning to either get in
their cars or go back into the church.
The warnings were not the result of a homicidal
maniac or a biological attack but a pissed off, 300-pound male
bear that had taken up residence near some fruit trees in a
Officers were called in to shoe off the
ornery bruin, but the big guy didn’t take well to their
advances. “When (officers) went in to shoe him, he charged
them,” said Cpl. Geary Parsons who responded to the incident.
That’s when they pulled out the heavy
artillery – pepper spray and bean-bag rounds – to
herd the bear toward Horse Gulch. But once again, he had plans
of his own.
“It took off headed toward Sacred
Heart Church,” said Durango Police Sgt. Tony Archuleta.
Fearing unsuspecting churchgoers would
be caught in the crossfire, officers got on the horn. “They
were afraid, with the bear being a little aggressive, that someone
would get hurt,” said Archuleta.
For the most part, people heeded the officers’
warnings, although curiosity got the better of a few, who tried
to follow the bear, Archuleta said. As for the bear, he found
his way up a tree near the church before being put down for
a nap by a Division of Wildlife officer – thus creating
a whole other set of problems.
“Once he went out, he was stuck in
the tree,” said Parsons.
Eventually, amid tearing and coughing fits,
officers delivered the pepper-sprayed bear to ground level,
tagged him and released him back into the wild, Parsons said.
Only time will tell whether the bear’s
religious experience was enough to convince him to stay clear
Mercy to move to Grandview
On Sept. 6, the Mercy Medical Center Board
of Directors signed a letter of intent to pursue negotiations
to relocate the hospital to Grandview. The letter was signed
following the announcement that the Southern Ute Indian Tribe
and Southfork Ranch had reached an agreement to donate 35 acres
of land in the Grandview area to Mercy Medical Center. The agreement
also allows Mercy Medical Center to buy an additional 45 acres
as needed to grow to an 80-acre medical campus in the future.
The Utes and Crader family are going forward with a plan for
2,000 new units on a 920-acre site roughly two miles east of
Pat Murphy, chairman of the hospital’s
Board of Directors, said, “The hospital on the existing
campus is well over 100 years old. We’re facing a lot
of growth issues. We’re in the neighborhood of 40,000
feet deficient for the services we currently provide.”
A Mercy Medical Center news release states
that the hospital is honored that the Southern Ute Indian Tribe
and landowner Rowean Crader reached out to the health-care community
by donating land for its new medical campus.
“We’ve been working to identify
a site,” said Murphy. “We started off identifying
a potential dozen sites in the county. We eliminated some, and
winnowed the thing down to the point where they came at us as
the best choice.”
Speaking to the donation of the land, Murphy
added, “It’s a very generous offer.”
Pending city approval of the development,
groundbreaking would begin in the spring of 2003. Last year,
Mercy began a comprehensive planning process to determine how
it could best meet the future health-care needs of Durango and
surrounding communities. Mercy made the decision to move from
its current location after a study confirmed physical plant
limitations, space constraints and the need to meet the health-care
issues of a growing community could not be achieved on the existing
Man arrested for attempted
On Sept. 5, Gilbert Clarence Abeyta, a
56-year-old Durango resident, was arrested for attempted murder
at his home, according to a Durango Police Department news releasae.
Abeyta allegedly shot 21-year-old Pricilla Rippee on Dec. 4,
2000, while she sat in her car in the driveway of his home.
Originally Durango Police believed that
Rippee had shot herself in an attempt to commit suicide, but
in May of 2001, Rippee’s family raised sufficient doubts
that Rippee had shot herself.
In a joint investigation between the 6th
Judicial District and Durango police, investigators re-examined
all the evidence; re-interviewed all the witnesses, the victim
in the case and newly developed witnesses; and collected new
After several months of investigation and
after Abeyta became the primary suspect, the case was presented
to the District Attorney’s Office for review. During the
week of Aug. 29, the District Attorney’s Office contacted
Investigator Dan Shry, Durango Police Department’s lead
investigator of the case, and advised him to proceed in obtaining
an arrest warrant for Abeyta, which was obtained Sept. 2.
Investigators arrested Abeyta at his home
without incident. Investigators believe that Abeyta and Rippee
got into an argument while standing outside of Rippee’s
car on the afternoon of Dec. 4, 2000 around 2:30 p.m. They believe
that Abeyta and Rippee got into her car where the argument continued
and resulted in Abeyta shooting Rippee in the head once with
a .25 caliber pistol that he owned. Investigators believe that
after Abeyta shot Rippee he left the gun in the car and then
went into his house and called 911, reporting that a woman had
Abeyta was booked into La Plata County
Jail on charges of first-degree attempted murder pending formal
charges by the District Attorney’s Office. Bond was set
Man holds up store with
An investigation of a robbery at the Hermosa
Conoco station is currently under way by the La Plata County
Last Sunday at approximately 9:45 p.m.,
a man wearing a ski mask and wielding a crowbar entered the
convenience store, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
The man then reached over and took money
out of the cash register door while menacing the female employee
with the crowbar. The incident is still under investigation,
and the Sheriff’s Office would not disclose how much money
had been stolen.
-compiled by Will Sands
and Missy Votel