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County responds to alert

President Bush raised terrorism threat level to orange

Christine Metz

Local law enforcement and county agencies are not taking a federal orange terrorism alert lightly.

Routt County Sheriff John Warner said the sheriff’s office is increasing its patrol of the county’s airports, power plant and mines.

“We are patrolling the mines, the power plant and the airport and a couple of other places on a regular basis, more regularly than we would do normally,” Warner said.

The sheriff’s office did receive intelligence information from the Office of Homeland Security early this week and met with Routt County Emergency Management Director Chuck Vale.

Vale said that no credible threats have been made in Colorado or Routt County, but the county remains on a heightened level of awareness. With a major ski area, coal power plant and mines, Vale said the county does have potential targets, but even with the risk, Vale said, rural America should still be safer than metropolitan areas.

The county has been preparing for possible terrorist activities, updating its emergency action plan a few weeks ago and testing that plan last week.

“We are just about as prepared as a rural county can be,” Vale said.

Because it is the holidays, law enforcement is increased countywide, regardless of the orange alert, Vale said.

On Tuesday, Warner, Vale and Undersheriff Dan Taylor met to discuss the initial stages of an emergency action center if a terrorist attack would occur in Routt County. The three coordinated schedules so they could be easily accessible if something were to happen, Warner said.

On Wednesday, The Associated Press reported that some of the intelligence information leading President Bush to put the nation on orange alert for a terrorist attack involved threats against remote facilities.

The threats mentioned nuclear power plants in rural areas and other electric facilities, major dams, bridges or chemical plants.

“Citizens should be alert to any suspicious activities, packages or people and to make sure they report all activities to us,” Warner said.

Security has increased at Yampa Valley Regional Airport, which requires passengers to arrive more than 150 minutes ahead of the scheduled departure time. Checked and carry-on luggage is being searched more thoroughly and airport officials are randomly inspecting vehicles.

Steamboat Springs Airport has not changed its operations since the orange alert was issued Sunday, said Bill Heck, a worker at the airports fixed based operations.

The airport continues its regular security of locking gates at night and watching out for any suspicious visitors at the general aviation airport.

— To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com


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