- Associated Press - Monday, May 12, 2014

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) - Dozens of people gathered to recognize the emergency personnel and volunteers who responded to a February avalanche in Missoula that killed a woman and destroyed her home.

They met at Ten Spoon Vineyard and Winery north of the site of the Feb. 28 Mount Jumbo slide as fresh snow fell over Missoula on Sunday. Hundreds of handmade prayer flags fluttered in the breeze, and a table was set up for people to make their own prayer flags to hang beside them.

“They are traditionally used to blow and promote peace, compassion and strength,” said Claire Emery, one of the volunteers from the post-avalanche recovery efforts.

Since the avalanche, Emery said she has been thinking about why it touched so many people so deeply, she said.

“One thing I think of is how we had all been hunkered down inside of our homes for days during the storm. To have your home, the place of safety and security, blown apart touched something primal,” Emery said.

Michel Colville, 68, died from injuries she suffered in the slide. Her husband, Fred Allendorf, 66, and an 8-year-old neighbor, Phoenix Coles-Scoburn, were buried but survived.

Volunteers and emergency responders spent hours searching through the debris immediately after the avalanche and weeks afterward cleaning it up.

It’s still a shock to see the gap where Colville and Allendorf’s home used to be in Missoula’s Lower Rattlesnake neighborhood, avalanche cleanup organizer Tarm Ream told the Missoulian in a story published Monday (bit.ly/1gwiUo5).

Steve Karkanen, director of the West Central Montana Avalanche Center, said the avalanche was a type seen only once in a decade, if that.

The avalanche center does not typically work inside cities. But Karkanen said they will be coordinating with Missoula this coming winter to identify potential areas of avalanche concern and ensuring all necessary precautions are taken.

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Information from: Missoulian, http://www.missoulian.com

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