Authorities are searching for a 64-year-old Louisiana woman who was swept downstream after the Jeep she was in stalled in Pole Creek in the Rio Grande National Forest.
Tessie Strickland, of Kentwood, La., was declared missing Thursday evening, according to the Hinsdale County Office of Emergency Management.
Searchers are combing an 8-mile area along the banks of the creek to the Rio Grande River and then on to the Rio Grande Reservoir, according to a news release.
Strickland and her husband, Tommy, were staying in Silverton and planned to spend Thursday in nearby Creede. “They took Forest Service Road 520 over Stony Pass and crossed through Pole Creek in their Jeep in the morning,” the news release stated. “The couple returned in the early evening and attempted to cross the creek again, though it had become swollen with run off during the day.”
The couple’s Jeep stalled in the creek and was swept downstream a short distance, Tommy Strickland told authorities. The Jeep began filling with water and the couple climbed onto the roof. With no one around to help, the desperate couple jumped into the creek and attempted to make shore.
The couple were swept downstream, and Strickland attempted to “help his wife to the shore but was unsuccessful,” the news release stated. He ultimately reached the bank. She has not been seen since.
Once on shore, Strickland was found by a passer-by and taken to Silverton where authorities were contacted.
The Hinsdale County Sheriff’s Office was contacted by the San Juan County Sheriff Office at about 8:20 p.m. Thursday about the incident. Searches began immediately and have continued, the news release stated.
More than 25 personnel from Hinsdale, Mineral and San Juan counties have taken part. The Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control has provided a helicopter. Searchers have been concentrating along the banks of waterways. Drones have been used in areas that are not accessible by foot.
“Our hearts and prayers go out to Mr. Strickland and his family as they go through this incredibly difficult time,” Hinsdale County Sheriff Justin Casey said.
Pole Creek runs along the border of Hinsdale and San Juan counties in the Rio Grande National Forest. The creek crosses FSR 520 at Stony Pass, a four-wheel-drive trail that runs from Silverton to Lake City, the release stated.
Streams and rivers are running at “dangerously high levels” because of snowmelt in the high mountains. Passage at Pole Creek has since been closed by the forest service.
Water levels can rise quickly and dramatically, officials warn, and streams that are accessible in the morning can be impassable later in the day.