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Colorado State Rep. Wes McKinley yesterday blasted the U.S. Department of Agriculture decision to deny disaster relief to 10 southeastern Colorado counties that were pummeled by the two major blizzards in late December. McKinley said he wants to ask the USDA what part of dead cows, 3 foot of snow and fuel bills they are having a hard time comprehending. McKinley said that the series of blizzards have taken a toll on the lives of farmers and ranchers in southeastern Colorado. He said that many families have been devastated by the storms. The USDA, in a letter sent to Gov. Bill Ritter on February 5th, said that farmers and ranchers didn‚€™t qualify for low-interest operating loans. The letter said that countywide, the losses did not equal 30% or more of production, which would include cattle, calves and winter wheat. The USDA requires production losses ‚€“ not economic losses ‚€“ of 30% before it will declare a disaster.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has announced that federal snow emergency funds have now been made available to Walsenburg and Huerfano County to cover certain costs related to the severe winter storm of December 28th through the 31st. Some federal money is beginning to flow to the Colorado Department of Emergency Management who will then forward it to the counties involved. Federal assistance is provided on a cost-sharing basis covering 75% of eligible costs incurred for snow removal and emergency protective measures taken in response to the two storms. State and local governments will then assume the remaining 25% share.
Mary Hammond, 62, of Aguilar, was killed yesterday when a semi trailer was unable to slow down on the icy northbound lanes of I-25 south of Walsenburg. Fog and a half-inch of ice and snow shut down I-25 yesterday morning after a series of accidents on the roadway. According to the state patrol, truck driver Christina Cousin, 23, of Girard, IL, was driving too fast for the conditions when she hit Hammond‚€™s 2001 Hyundai Elantra. Hammond, who was not wearing a seat belt, was killed on impact. Cousin was arrested and booked at the Las Animas County Jail for careless driving causing death. Hammond had slowed down in traffic caused by several earlier accidents in the same location that included a number of trucks and a Huerfano County Sheriff‚€™s vehicle, which was parked along the roadway at the time.
Vincent Lee Valencia, 18, of Red Cliff, pled guilty to vehicular eluding on Monday before Alamosa District Judge Pattie Swift. Valencia led law enforcement officers on a high-speed, 84-mile chase across three counties last October when he refused to pull over for a Chaffee County Sheriff‚€™s deputy. Valencia raced through Saguache and Alamosa counties at speeds of up to 120 mph before his car was stopped using tire-deflating sticks north of Mosca. Swift will sentence Valencia on March 26th.
A three-day Emergency Medical Services Symposium taking place at Trinidad State Junior College in Alamosa ended up helping Nona Abraham, 53, of Grants, NM, after a snowmobile accident on Saturday. Abraham was injured at the east end of Brazos Canyon in northern New Mexico when her snowmobile dropped into a 20 by 20-foot hole, breaking her hip. A Flight For Life helicopter attending the symposium from St. Mary Corwin Medical Center in Pueblo flew to the accident site and airlifted Abraham to Albuquerque. She was reported in satisfactory condition yesterday.