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Planning and training benefit Gilcrest in 2008 tornado response
Posted on 05/19/2018
Planning and training benefit Gilcrest in 2008 tornado responseStory by Baker Geist, Weld County Communications Specialist, photos from Roy Rudisill

Most everyone recalls the 2008 Weld County tornado and its destruction in west Greeley and Windsor, but few realize it also impacted small towns like Gilcrest during its 39-mile journey across Weld County.

“It missed the town of Gilcrest by less than a tenth of a mile,” said Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer, who was Gilcrest’s Town Manager at the time of the tornado.

With the suddenness and severity of the storm fresh in her mind, Kirkmeyer recalled the strong response of Gilcrest’s town government which she credits to one thing: preparation.

“The reason Gilcrest was successful in its response was because we had partnerships in place prior to the event. We had the fire chief, the police chief and the town manger all working together,” Kirkmeyer said.

Additionally, town staff in Gilcrest was able to team up with the police chief and town manager in Platteville thanks to training prior to the tornado which solidified everyone’s roles and responsibilities during an emergency event. This teamwork enabled both towns to act quickly in response to the tornado by setting up an incident command center and identifying the needs of residents.

While this preparation enabled a quick response after the tornado, it also allowed every branch of Gilcrest and Platteville’s government to aid in response in whatever way needed. For example, after a semi was overturned by the tornado on Highway 85 in Gilcrest, the Platteville Police Department barricaded the road, ambulances responded to those injured and the Platteville/Gilcrest Fire District ran emergency response. By each branch of local government knowing its responsibility before the tornado and taking ownership in emergency response, were residents aided quickly and efficiently.

“It comes back to preparation,” Kirkmeyer said. “Developing those partnerships and relationships prior to an incident, regardless if the incident is a traffic accident on a state highway or a tornado ripping through the county, is crucial to successful response and recovery.”