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Platteville community rallies after the storm

Posted on 05/18/2018
Platteville community rallies after the stormStory by Shaley Dehner, Weld County Communications Specialist, Photo courtesy of Roy Rudisill

Daniel Bass was cleaning up after laying pipeline east of Windsor before rain moved in on May 22, 2008, when he received the page. A tornado had touched down outside of Platteville and was damaging properties right and left. As a volunteer firefighter, he dropped everything and went to help his community.

He responded to the Platteville Gilcrest Fire Protection District station where he and another volunteer firefighter set up shop. They began putting together maps, doing a triage of the structures and sending crews out one at a time with different apparatus’ to assess what kind of damage had occurred.

“Our communications system crashed on us, so we were relying on relay communication. We would canvas the entire area and then report back to the Gilcrest firehouse,” Bass said. “Luckily in our case, we didn’t find any major injuries, but we did have a few houses that were taken out.”

It took three hours to get a full triage — which meant assessing the damage to each house and talking with the land owners. Another four to five hours was spent picking up and helping community members.

Today, Bass is a captain at the Platteville Gilcrest Fire Protection District. He still remembers the amazing outpouring of community support on that day. He said people started to bring loaders and tractors to the damaged properties. They also brought different covers to protect entire houses so that any valuables that were still in and around the foundation were shielded from persistent rainfall.

“It was kind of a weird moment because there wasn’t much we could do other than just protect peoples stuff where it sat, there was nowhere to move it. It was an eerie feeling,” Bass stated.

The EF3 tornado was said to be a mile wide and covered 39 miles of ground. Its path began just east of Platteville and continued west of Gilcrest, tracing County Road 29 before it moved north to Windsor, causing even more damage and displacing multiple families.

Throughout the seven-hour ordeal, Bass had little to no communication with his loved ones. Cell service crashed; therefore, he couldn’t call his parents — his loved ones in the area at that time — to let them know he was all right or find out if they were affected by the storm. Once he got back to the firehouse and could see roughly where the tornado began and where it left, he was relieved to know that his parents were not in the path.

“We had one of our firefighters, where the tornado went right by his house, the neighbors’ roof was peeled off. It really touched home for a few of them,” Bass said.

As a firefighter, Bass has seen a lot when it comes to emergency response, but seeing the community come together to help each other following the tornado’s aftermath was unique.

“It was cool to watch the community come together to take care of our own. I know up north, in the Windsor area, a lot more people were affected and it hit a lot more homes. But out here, as soon as it passed, people just started showing up in trucks and started getting to work. That was cool to see on our end.”

2008 Tornado Timeline