County increases its state of alert

Otherwise, it's business as usual

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— The stream of live newscasts providing round-the-clock coverage of terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon was a little too distracting Tuesday for county employees.

"It's numbing," said Georgian Kalow, of the county's personnel department. "It's shocking. We're all in this perpetual state of disbelief."

Throughout the day, Kalow and her co-workers crowded into the tiny conference room in the county annex, watching for anything new, and all the while understanding that one hard truth would stay the same.

"Someone has attacked us, and we couldn't do a thing about it," Kalow said.

Kalow shares the concerns of many parents whose children serve in the military and are now on alert.

"My son is in the reserves," Kalow said. "There's always a chance with something like this that he might be called to go. How can you concentrate on everyday life with something like that?"

Jim Goossen, on staff with the county planning department, was one of many who periodically paced back and forth between work and the unfolding tragedy.

"I heard it on the radio this morning, and I haven't been able to really concentrate on anything else," Goossen said. "It makes everything else look pretty unimportant."

For county officials, it was business as usual, but it was business with a great deal of somberness.

"You see all the movies with this stuff and stack it up to Hollywood's version of action and intrigue," County Manger Tom Sullivan said. "Well, it really happened today, and it's no movie script."

County commissioners met with County Sheriff John Warner and County Emergency Manager Chuck Vale in response to Gov. Bill Owens' placing all state offices on a heightened state of alert.

No state offices, however, were closed, and the commissioners decided that closing county offices was unnecessary.

"We are comfortable with operations in the court being open," Warner said. "We are, however, still on a heightened state of alert.

"Other than that, it's business as usual. I don't see at this point it having any great impact on Routt County."

A closing of all exits except one in the Moffat County Courthouse was ordered by Moffat County commissioners because those courtrooms do not have the same level of security as Routt County courtrooms, Moffat County Sheriff Buddy Grinstead said.

"We're essentially restricting access to the court facility," Grinstead said. "It may be an inconvenience, but it's bearable."

No lock downs have occurred at the Routt County Courthouse, commissioners said. The courthouse was evacuated once in 1994 during the explosion of the Good News building in downtown Steamboat Springs.

An emergency operation center opened at 8 a.m. Tuesday morning at the Routt County sheriff's office to maintain communications with state officials, Vale said.

The state could still be a prime target for related attacks, he added.

"Strategically, Colorado has a lot of other issues," Vale said. "When you talk about national security, we've got the power grid, we have airports and we have Cheyenne Mountain, which is the hub of our whole military operations."

A county-wide emergency plan has been in place for some time.

"We use little pieces of it, and we are using a piece of it right now by opening an emergency operation center and keeping the powers that be in the loop," Vale said.

An important part of coping with those emergencies is area hospitals.

Karl Gills, chief executive officer of Yampa Valley Medical Center, said YVMC has plans that it would implement in response to such disasters.

But reacting to a crisis like Tuesday's would tax anyone's preparedness. "I'm not sure anyone can plan for the magnitude of what we're seeing today," Gills said.

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