Tornado touches down twice in Grandview

Call it what you will, an indication of global warming or a sign of the coming apocalypse, but a freak tornado touched down twice in Grandview last Tuesday. The incident caused no injuries but caused significant property damage just east of Durango.

Just after noon on Tuesday, Oct. 5, the 911 Central Dispatch Center received numerous calls from citizens who observed the tornado first touch down approximately seven-tenths of a mile east of U.S. Highway 550 in the Grandview area. At one point, the tornado picked up a utility trailer and carried it approximately 100 feet before dropping it next to a county road. Several trees were also significantly damaged. Ten minutes later, the tornado touched down again, this time closer to U.S. Highway 550 and picked up a steel-framed, three-sided cattle shed and threw it 100 feet into the air. Both the utility trailer and the cattle shed were demolished.

The La Plata County Sheriff's Office and the Durango Fire and Rescue Authority monitored the tornado as it moved through the area, and the Office of Emergency Management maintained constant contact with the National Weather Service and the 911 Central Dispatch Center to provide up-to-the-minute information.

"Tornadoes, or funnel clouds, as they are sometimes called, are not totally uncommon to observe in La Plata County," said Butch Knowlton, Director of the Office of Emergency Management. "However, it is rare for tornadoes to touch down and cause damage. This one literally sucked several bales of hay out of the north side of the barn on U.S. Highway 550."

The severe weather moved through La Plata County and into Archuleta County quickly. Knowlton noted that cooler temperatures make for more volatile weather, but that Tuesday's storm was off the charts.

"The National Weather Service advises that, with the cooler temperatures we are now experiencing, we can expect unsettled weather, but not the severe thunderstorm activity that preceded the tornado," he said.

New DMR base area gets go ahead

Durango Mountain Resort got the go-ahead for a major face-lift to its base area this week. The La Plata County Commissioners approved the conceptual plan for Purgatory Village on Monday. Construction on 641 new residential units and 170,000 square feet of commercial space at the base area is scheduled to begin in 2005.

The renovation of the existing base area is a critical component of the new 25-year Master Plan at DMR, according to CEO Gary Derck. "This approval is a crucial step towards redevelopment and revitalization of the existing Purgatory Village and the base of our ski mountain," he said. "The way is now clear for the finalization of plans to offer a wide array of additional skier services, shops, restaurants, a club, a spa and a mixture of ski-in/ski-out residences over the next few years, making Purgatory Village a lively place to spend time in any of the four seasons."

Highlights of the plan include the Purgatory Lodge project, a multi-phase base lodge including skier services and residential units set to revitalize the base area plaza and Purgatory's slopeside "beach." DMR said that locals will benefit from the expanded parking in the Gelande Parking Lot, the new Gelande Day Lodge and the new Gelande Lift, which will take skiers directly to the top of the mountain.

Current plans call for several Purgatory Village projects to break ground next summer once platting and detailed designs are approved. Several builders already have projects in the design stage for next summer.

The renovation and expansion plan for the base village is the most comprehensive of the six resort villages approved in 2002. Purgatory Village is the third individual village to receive approval, joining Engineer Village and Tacoma Village, where a variety of single-family homesites and townhomes are currently under construction.

Leaks cancel open house at school

An open house to show off the new and improved Riverview Elementary School was cancelled last week when heavy rains and an incomplete roof system led to significant leaking. The leaks caused only minor damage to the paint and sheetrock in the building's interior, but school staff wanted to have the items repaired before unveiling their new school to the public, said Riverview Principal Jean Thweatt.

The district's construction program manager 3D/I had identified the incomplete roof-system flashing installation during an earlier site inspection, and the deficiency had been placed on the contractor's punch list.

"The rain just beat the contractor," said Director of Business Services Diane Doney. "At this phase in any construction program, you're going to find minor items that still need to be fixed. The roof system is under warranty, and it will be the contractor's responsibility to repair the roof and interior damage caused by the leaks."

In the meantime, Riverview will wait to reschedule its community open house until the building is actually ready to unveil.

City Council announces office hours

Have you ever wanted to give the Durango City Council a piece of your mind? Council members are now making that possible. Beginning this week, council members are holding regular office hours and encourage members of the public to offer comments, suggestions and questions face-to-face

"This is an opportunity for citizens to stop in and ask questions or provide comments," stated Mayor Joe Colgan. "I hope that it is utilized and good ideas and information are exchanged."

Colgan will be available Tuesdays from 10 a.m.-noon; Councilor Sidny Zink on Wednesdays from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.; and Mayor Pro-Tem Dale Garland on Wednesdays from 4-6 p.m. The sessions will take place in the east conference room at City Hall.

National flu vaccine in short supply

With flu season on the horizon, a major, national vaccine shortage has been announced.

As a result, San Juan Basin Health Department is requesting community cooperation in targeting the vaccine to those at highest risk for influenza. For the month of October, the Health Department requests that only people in the following groups receive flu vaccine:

- Children 6-23 months old

- People 50 years of age or older

- Anyone who has anemia, heart, lung, kidney or metabolic disease

- Household contacts of those at highest risk

- Health-care workers

Beginning Nov. 1, clinics will be open to the public on a first-come, first-serve basis.

-compiled by Will Sands





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