Colorado floods prove a unique challenge for Task Force 1

Teams say terrain, local authorities' needs were different from past efforts

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Members of Missouri Task Force 1 returned to Columbia Monday afternoon, more than one week since being deployed to help search and rescue crews in Larimer County, Colorado.

Dozens of team members from across Missouri made the roughly 800 mile trip Sunday into Monday.

"This is not the normal flood zone," described safety officer and Columbia fire division chief Terry Cassil. "You don't normally get sent to the mountains for a flood zone; we don't think about the mountains and a flood."

Larimer County is one of the hardest hit by the extreme flooding. The body of an eighth victim was found there Monday morning.

While Task Force 1 performed countless rescues, so many they say they don't have a solid number, members also spent time reaching out to people trying to evacuate.

"As missions have changed, we've become more of a humanitarian effort," Cassil said. "So we learned in [Superstorm] Sandy that sometimes our mission is knocking on doors and making sure people are okay."

Some crews spent time literally dropping into small mountain communities via helicopter to help people and pets evacuate. Others were around Loveland, Colo. and low-lying flat areas, where all the water ultimately ended up.

The biggest challenge proved to be getting people evacuated and rescued because entire roads and highways had been destroyed by rushing water.

"It's going to be a very long road to recovery for them, but I know they can do it," said rescue officer Matt Schoefield. "It's one of those things when you see people and you see they're determined to put their communities back together, you know they're going to make it."

FEMA gave the crew four hours to be on the road after it was activated last Saturday night. Unpacking moved a little more quickly, with most members getting their personal gear within 30 minutes. All the major equipment and smaller technical gear still had to be inventoried Monday night.

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