Crews and Neighbors Work To Clean Missoula Avalanche Site

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One week after a house in the Lower Rattlesnake was demolished by a deadly avalanche, a family friend of the victims is working to get what's left of their home cleaned up. Morgan Nelson was friends with the couple's children. He hadn't talked to them in years, but after hearing what happened to their home, he knew he had to help.

On Friday, piles of debris still fill the area where the home used to stand.

"It's kind of a double edge sword. We want to save stuff, but we want to get the area clear," Nelson said.

Nelson has been leading the cleaning efforts.

"I know these people, and I really want to help them as much as I can," he said.

The home belongs to retired UM professor Fred Allendorf and his wife Michel Colville. Both were inside when the avalanche destroyed it.

"When I found out whose house got demolished, that really pushed me over edge, and made me realize now I really have purpose," Nelson said.

Both residents were rescued hours later. Allendorf is still recovering in the hospital, but his wife passed away earlier this week. Nelson said he hasn't had contact with the family in almost 20 years.

"It's overwhelming to be helping the family, being able to talk with them and reconnect," Nelson said.

Now, that the snow is melting the debris and the family's belongings are starting to surface. Everything from filling cabinets, to cameras can be found around the site.

"I feel like we're just scratching the surface as we start digging," said Mario Colucci.

The national service group, Montana Conservation Corp, helped pick up the debris on Friday.

It's the first day crews have been able to help clear the area and sort through debris since last weekend.

"Today we're moving debris, uncovering the remains of what is here, certainly a lot of snow and what we can find amongst debris," Colucci said.

All the debris will go to a landfill. Nelson is trying to make arrangements for the family to sift through it there when they're ready.

If you'd like to help clean up the site, Nelson asks you to contact him, through the Missoula Avalanche Victim Facebook page.

In honor of Colville, bells at the university and church bells downtown rang at 4:15 Friday, one week after the avalanche hit.

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