Mesa County resident Fran MacKenzie moving out of her ranch over mudslide fears

COLLBRAN, Colo. - For 14 years, Fran MacKenzie has lived near Sugarloaf Peak in Mesa County.

Now, after Sunday's massive mudslide and with another likely in the future, she is accelerating her plans to leave.

"We're just starting to pack up some things," she said, "Trying to figure out what's important and what isn't."

MacKenzie and her neighbors are keeping an anxious eye on the mountainside. The last slide was 2-to-3 miles long, registered a 2.8 on the Richter scale and presumably killed three of their neighbors -- Clancy Nichols, 51, his son Danny, 24, and Wes Hawkins, 46.

Officials believe that while the men were investigating a water flow problem, they likely found a small slide. Sheriff Stan Hilkey believes while the men were checking out the first slide, the larger slide hit.

During a public meeting Thursday, Sheriff Hilkey apologized to the crowd for not being able to find the three men. Earlier this week, the ground in the area was declared too unstable to support search crews on foot.

"The people are wonderful, 'take care of each other' wonderful people," MacKenzie said. "That's what I'm going to miss."

Experts said there is a "depression" or "pond" forming behind the slide that could cause another. The depression is 1,600-feet long, 300-to-400-feet wide and possibly over 100-feet deep, according to geologist Jonathan White.

MacKenzie was already planning to move and her ranch along Salt Creek Road was already up for sale. But she says her daughter urged her to leave sooner because of the danger of another slide. She will go to live with her daughter in Arvada.

"This is such a beautiful, beautiful, special place. And a magical place. I've loved living here and (it's) such sad circumstances with our neighbors being lost," she said. "It's emotional."

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