Missoula County Search and Rescue Coordinator Jeremiah Peterson hasn't slept since Thursday night.

Today is Saturday, March 1, and the past 36 hours have been full of frantic, ceaseless effort by Peterson and dozens of others dealing with two major incidents. The first was the avalanche at Harrison and Holly in the Rattlesnake area that destroyed two homes, trapping an elderly couple and an eight year-old child.

"It was unlike anything I've ever seen," Peterson said. "It was hard to believe because it was in a residential neighborhood. There was obviously so much force to completely destroy two houses. There were two by fours, pieces of insulation, books, clothing and pieces of trees. The snow was compacted so hard by the slide that it was truly amazing that anyone was able to survive that."

Peterson praised the teamwork of so many different agencies on the scene, from the Missoula Police Department to the Missoula Fire Department, along with Search and Rescue personnel from both Missoula and the Flathead area. There we also dozens of neighbors who worked frantically to help uncover an elderly couple, later identified as

Fred Allendorf and his wife, Michel Jo Colville. They were listed in critical condition Friday night at St. Patrick hospital. On Saturday morning, the hospital upgraded Allendorf to serious condition.

While the avalanche scene was being secured, Peterson said he was called up to Montana Snowbowl.

"We sent out three teams last night," Peterson said. "Some were on skis, some on snowmobiles, and others in trucks on the roads near the area. We searched until about midnight before we had to call it off for awhile. Then, we received some information at about 2:30 a.m. about where the missing skiers might be, so we went back out at about 3:30 this morning. We had some volunteers from the Five Valley Ski Patrol that came and assisted us. They skied in, and both the individuals were brought out."

Peterson said one of the skiers was not able to ski out on his own.

"One came out completely on his own, but the other had to be brought out in one of our rescue toboggans," Peterson said. "They were both taken to St. Patrick Hospital, and hopefully, their injuries are minimal."

Peterson calls the rescue of the three avalanche victims a major miracle, and the that of the skiers as a mini-miracle.

"Corby Dickerson with the National Weather Service said at Point Six last night the temperature was minus 60 with the wind chill factor," Peterson said. "The conditions were the worst of the worst, and for those guys to survive was a mini-miracle."

Peterson heaped praise on the volunteers who sacrificed their time and their safety to help out in both incidents.

"I get paid to be here, because I work with the sheriff's office, but they don't," Peterson said. "They go out there because they truly want to give back. They are very skilled at what they do, and I think our community is very lucky to have them. They leave their families and their jobs to help out, and I feel very fortunate to be a part of that unit."

Missoula County Search and Rescue Coordinator Jeremiah Peterson



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