A geologic hazard, a drive-by shooting, missing people, an and epic snowpack and rafting season topped the news charts for Dolores in 2019.
On May 24, a portion of a cliff in the Dolores Valley sheared off and broke into two massive boulders, which tumbled 1,000 feet and obliterated a large section of Colorado Highway 145.
Nobody was hurt, but two vehicles were narrowly missed.
The highway was closed for a few days at mile marker 21 while crews blasted apart the 2.5 million-pound boulder that cratered directly onto the road.
The second boulder, weighing in at 8.3 million pounds, plowed through the asphalt, creating an 8-foot-deep trench and stopping on the highway shoulder.
It was left in place and Colorado Gov. Jared Polis christened it Memorial Rock in honor of military service. The incident occurred on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend.
By July, the highway was fully repaired by the Colorado Department of Transportation for $1.3 million and the valley was surveyed to mitigate other rock hazards.
A deadly year for avalanches
And 2019 was a deadly year for avalanches in Southwest Colorado and across the state.
On Jan. 5, a Longmont man was killed in an avalanche in the Red Mountain Pass area while taking an avalanche course. On Feb. 19, a backcountry skier was killed in the Bear Creek area near the Telluride ski resort. On March 3, a backcountry skier was buried and killed in an avalanche on the west side of Yellow Mountain and east of Priest Lake, 12 miles south of Telluride.
Drive-by shooting shakes townOn April 26, there was drive-by shooting on Second Street in Dolores. A man fired two shots from a handgun into a parked but unoccupied vehicle. The victim was not hit. According to witnesses, the suspect then left the scene, and his truck was found on Linden Street in Cortez. The suspect was later arrested. He pleaded guilty to illegally discharging a firearm and was sentenced to five years in prison.
After the shooting, witnesses said the victim in the Impala moved the vehicle to another location on Second Street. At first, he could not be located, but he was later found hiding in the Impala’s trunk because he had an active warrant.
Two elderly men went missing in 2019 in the Dolores area and have still not been located.
Elderly hunters lostRamon Brown, 86, went missing July 14 after walking from his home. He was last seen in the vicinity of Road 27 and T. A massive four-day search of the area by local rescue crews and search dogs came up empty.
On Oct. 19, Alvie Webb, 86, of Oklahoma went missing while hunting in the Divide Road-Roaring Fork area of the San Juan National Forest. Webb’s last known location was at a trail that begins at the end of Road 564A, a spur of the Divide Road (Forest Road 564). The rugged, mountainous area is west of the Colorado Trail and 4 miles south of Rico.
Montezuma County Sheriff Steve Nowlin said the county search and rescue team, deputies and K-9 Search and Rescue team, and friends and family of Webb conducted a five-day, on-the-ground search of the area, but nothing was found. A Blackhawk helicopter, Flight for Life helicopter and Civil Air Patrol plane also searched the heavily wooded area from the air.
Long-awaited cause of fireIn June, investigators concluded that the 2018 Burro Fire was likely human-caused. The fire torched 4,600 acres in Bear Creek Canyon within San Juan National Forest. The point of origin was traced to the Gold Run Trail. Investigators have not identified a suspect or ignition source, and they reported no evidence of a lightning strike in the preceding seven days.
According to investigators, possible causes of the fire include motorized equipment, smoking and the reckless or intentional use of an incendiary device.
The fire’s origin was placed about halfway down the 2.2-mile Gold Run Trail on a 75-square-foot bench that trail users might use for a shaded break.
The fire cost more than $3 million to fight and occurred in severe drought conditions during the same time as the nearby 416 Fire. It started June 8, 2018, and rains in early July helped crews to reach full containment by Aug. 1.
Also in 2019 ...In the November election, Clay Tallmadge, Meagan Crowley and Lenetta Shull were elected to the Dolores School Board.The town board hired Ken Charles as an interim town manager in September after former manager Jay Ruybalid resigned. The federal government donated land to the West Fork Volunteer Fire Department for a new station. After a severe drought, area snowpack was at 140% of normal for 2019. Ski areas, boaters and farmers rejoiced, and backcountry skiing continued into July. Thanks to the above-average snowpack, McPhee Reservoir filled from historic lows, and there was a 51-day whitewater boating season below McPhee dam. The snowmelt also caused flooding in a Dolores Valley neighborhood, and the water table in town rose to flooding levels in places.After a man illegally shot a wild turkey in town with a bow and arrow, the town board passed an ordinance prohibiting hunting with a bow and arrow within town limits. It was already illegal to discharge a firearm within city limits, including for hunting. Archery target practice is allowed, and live trapping will continue for certain animals like skunks and raccoons.A new logging and milling business started up in Dolores in 2019. Iron Wood Group LLC on Road T will produce veneer for the plywood industry at a refurbished mill southwest of Dolores. Iron Wood mill will employ 20 to 30 workers, and there is a logging crew working in the forest. The San Juan National Forest is reviewing a proposal to allow OHVs on one road in the Sage Hen area to provide a connection to the Dolores River Valley below McPhee dam. Montezuma County envisions the route to be the beginning of a spur to the larger RimRocker Trail that connects Montrose with Moab.jmimiaga @the-journal.com