CDOT tells travelers to stay off I-70 through mountains
March 7, 2019
Colorado Department of Transportation is advising travelers to avoid traveling over the mountains on Interstate 70 Thursday, due to a natural avalanche and continued avalanche mitigation work.
The cleanup efforts for the avalanches near Vail and Copper Mountain, and avalanche mitigation near the Eisenhower/Johnson Memorial Tunnels will likely take much of the day.
"We're going to have a pretty challenging day again on I-70," CDOT spokesperson Tracy Trulove said Thursday morning.
As of mid-morning, both directions of I-70 were closed between Vail and Copper Mountain due to a natural slide that occurred around 1:45 a.m. that brought down about 6 feet of snow over the westbound lanes, Trulove said.
No one was injured in that slide, though a tow truck did get trapped by the slide and had to be towed out.
After shutting down I-70 for that slide, avalanche mitigation teams began setting charges around 7:45 a.m., and brought down a significant amount of snow, at least 15 feet deep on the interstate at some places, that will have to be cleaned up.
CDOT has also closed I-70 between Silverthorne and US 40 Empire Junction due to avalanche work near the Eisenhower/Johnson tunnels.
Beyond the interstate, CDOT has closed U.S. Highway 24 between I-70 and Leadville, and Highway 91 between Leadville and Copper Mountain due to adverse conditions. U.S. Highway 6 over Loveland Pass is also closed.
There was no estimated time for reopening for any of these highways as of midday.
CDOT had hoped to reopen I-70 at Vail by 9:30, but now it's "looking like closer to a 6-hour cleanup," Trulove said.
Travel throughout those mountain areas is "strongly discouraged," CDOT said in a travel alert.
EASTBOUND TRUCKERS TOLD TO PARK IN GLENWOOD, DE BEQUE
All commercial vehicle traffic is being staged, Trulove said, as the alternate routes around the interstate closures are slippery and already congested.
"Travel on alternate routes is for passenger vehicles only," Trulove said. Eastbound commercial vehicles are advised to park in De Beque or Glenwood Springs, as truck lots in Dotsero are full.
The snowfall over the past few weeks has prompted the Colorado Avalanche Information Center to upgrade the risk of snow slides for Aspen, Gunnison, Vail and Summit counties to extreme Thursday, the highest risk level.
Most mountain areas in Colorado are under avalanche warnings due to "exceptional avalanche conditions."
"Every inch of avalanche terrain is extremely dangerous today," CAIC said in a statement Thursday. "Avalanches are running to valley floors and some are exceeding historic run outs."