Vail Pass reopens after wave of crashes
VAIL – Another spring storm put a halt to travel along Interstate 70 on Vail Pass Thursday, leaving motorists stranded along the South Frontage Road from Mid-Vail to East Vail.
Several accidents involving 20 to 30 cars, along with stuck vehicles and jack-knifed semi-trucks, shut the freeway for about 4 1/2 hours Thursday afternoon, according to Sgt. Marshall Schwarz of the Colorado State Patrol.
Both directions of I-70 had reopened by 5 p.m.
Colorado State Patrol spokesman John Hahn said the calls started coming in around 12:25 p.m. Thursday, with reports of a jack-knifed semi-truck followed by reports of “numerous other vehicles involved in a lot of separate crashes,” Hahn said.
Hahn said there was at least one person with serious injuries, and about six others with minor to moderate injuries. He said the number of injured could change as the investigation continues.
Travelers trying to head east from Vail were waiting out the closure in town, many of them choosing to park along the shoulders of South Frontage Road until they could get updates on the road closure and estimates of when it might reopen.
Tom and Christy Hagen, of Edwards, were heading to Denver International Airport and ended up stuck in Vail around 2 p.m. They didn’t have to get to the airport until 6:30 p.m., so they chose to wait for the road to open rather than heading the long way around through Minturn and Leadville.
Rachel Tanner and Jason Gilbert, who were trying to get back to Denver from Moab, Utah, wanted to wait for Interstate 70 to reopen, too. They said they had to get back to Denver as soon as possible.
“We’re kind of anxious,” Tanner said.
Some travelers were already considering breaking their plans. Steve Colby, who lives in Steamboat Springs but was heading to Denver from Fruita, was with his wife and 7-year-old son. They were waiting to hear more information before deciding what to do, but Colby said they might just end up heading back to Steamboat.
Matt Gardner, driving from Carbondale to Denver, was hoping the road would open so he could get to Denver International Airport to pick up his son, who was flying in from Illinois. He had plans to spend some of his son’s spring break time with him, but the highway closure was also becoming a roadblock for his plans.
He checked his son’s flight, which was still on time to land in Denver.
“Mother Nature is not on time, though,” Gardner said.
Les HIll, who had just spent time visiting his mother in a Grand Junction hospital, didn’t have a lot of options. He was heading back to Des Moines, Iowa, with his family and they had no choice but to wait.
“I was supposed to be back to work tonight, but I already called and told them that’s not going to happen,” Hill said.
Det. Justin Dill, of the Vail Police Department, was stationed at Ford Park directing traffic. Cars were making U-turns in East Vail to head west. Dill said police were strapped pretty thin because of all the crashes, which included a domestic dispute in one vehicle that had been involved in a crash.
Dill was telling drivers to listen to the radio for updates because local police had “no idea” when the interstate would reopen, he said.
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When the East Troublesome Fire raged across Grand County last October, thousands of people were evacuated from the US Highway 34 corridor in 90 minutes, thanks in part to the preparation of evacuation maps.