Canyon Closure Impacts Lake County
I-70 Update, Impact to Highway 82
Update: Friday, August 13, 2021
“A tremendous infrastructure loss,” for one mile. This afternoon’s #mediazoom meeting with #CDOT was #bythenumbers as officials outline the plans for a partial reopening of I-70 thru #GlenwoodCanyon on Saturday, Aug 14 “tomorrow afternoon some time.” The workload, front-end loads, money motherlode, and traffic load numbers are staggering after a challenging week for these transportation crews. #thankyou to these career professionals as they continue to mitigate an “event unlike anything that has ever occurred in Glenwood Canyon.”
Details here. Hopefully, this will ease some of the vehicle traffic that has been re-routed through @LeadvilleToday. As always, check cotrip for the most #uptotheminute road conditions. #Leadvillehighways #leadvillenews #highway82 #twinlakes
August 13 Media Meeting
Update: Friday, August 9, 2021
According to a press release distributed to media outlets this morning, August 9, 2021, Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), good weather during the weekend allowed crews to work without interruption on clearing mud and other debris from I-70 in Glenwood Canyon. with better access now that crews have been able to remove more debris, the engineering team will be conducting inspections.
CDOT crews were able to make significant progress during the weekend of Saturday, Aug. 7 and Sun., August 8, hauling 440 loads over the two days. Each truck load equals 13 tons of material. There was not an official weather watch over the weekend from NOAA and there was no precipitation at the burn scar or in the canyon.
Interstate I-70 Clean up:
Work included 204 loads hauled on Sunday, Aug. 8, to the CDOT dumpsites at No Name (Mile Point 119) and Dotsero (MP 133) on I-70, and at MP 9.3 on Highway 82.
On the east side of Glenwood Canyon, crews continued to work on loading trucks. The east side of Glenwood Canyon is from Hanging Lake Tunnel (MP 125) to the east. Crews cleared the remainder of the debris from the eastbound lanes at MP 124.3, which is an important area to assess in order to determine what is required to safely reopen I-70. Crews continued cleaning from Hanging Lake Tunnel to Bair Ranch, loading trucks with 110 loads on Sunday. Work will resume tomorrow with crews cleaning drainages and drop drains, and washing roadways. The priority will be to continue to clean up all the slides from Hanging Lake Tunnel to Bair Ranch on the eastbound lanes, where there is still a lot of debris.
On the west side of Glenwood Canyon (The west side of Glenwood Canyon is west of Hanging Lake Tunnel): 94 loads were hauled on Sunday, Aug 8. Crews were able to completely uncover the remainder of the debris at the washed out area at MP 123.5 (Blue Gulch) eastbound, so that the CDOT inspections and CDOT engineering teams can get a better assessment of the damage. This is one of the most critical areas for the inspection/engineering team to inspect the potential damage now that the debris is cleared in order for visual inspection to occur. That area measures approximately 120 feet wide on the north side/passing lane and narrows up to approximately 70 feet on the south side/driving lane (see photo).
Crews will continue to excavate the debris mud out to original grade/solid ground today (Mon., Aug. 9). Eastbound lanes have been cleared all the way to the MP 123.5 with rocks cleaned off (see photo). Also on the west side of the canyon, crews were able to remove a large boulder.
Priorities for Monday, August 9:
Crews will pick up where things ended on Sunday at MP 123.5. Smaller areas still need to be cleaned eastbound and westbound at MP 123 and westbound at MP 123.7-123.8, and all eastbound from Hanging Lake Tunnel to Bair Ranch.
The engineering team will be conducting inspections, with better access now that crews have been able to remove more debris.
Traffic control points at the Exit 87, CO 6 & 13 bypass, and at MP 133 are now being run by a contractor. CDOT and contractor crews are jointly managing Exit 116; CDOT is still manning both sides of CO 82 Independence Pass until the contractor can mobilize more flaggers.
#CDOT update as of Sunday @ 5:55 p.m. 8/01/2021 – I-70 through Glenwood Canyon will continue to be closed due to “extreme damage” from the latest round of heavy rain and flooding Saturday night (7/31); this assessment was provided by senior operations supervisors and engineering staff who described damage to the viaduct structure “unlike anything they had seen before.” CDOT crews are assessing damage and continue to clear debris and mudflow when weather conditions are safe.
Highway 82 Feels The Burden
Over The Weekend: Over Indy Pass
Closer to home the impact was felt in southern Lake County as some motorists re-routed over Highway 82, also known as Independence Pass. Although CDOT messaging encourages a northern re-route around the closure, for travelers headed south, this southern portal through the Village of Twin Lakes is a popular alternative.
However, travelers ran into more frustration on this roadway as both Saturday and Sunday saw disabled vehicle issues which shut down the second-highest paved crossing of the Continental Divide for more time than anyone thought they had the patience for. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed.
Both incidents happened on the Pitkin County (Aspen) side. The first late Saturday afternoon involving a vehicle that exceeded that 35-foot limit and was determined they might make it through anyway. After getting unstuck, initial reports do indicate they were ticketed under the law – HB 14-1021 – made back in 2014 to discourage just such action..
The second closure was caused by a BMW-in-distress with a burned-out clutch. Fortunately, according to Colorado State Patrol reports, a “good Samaritan” offered assistance by moving him out of the way. The highway reopened to westbound traffic around 7:40 p.m. after nearly a one-hour closure.
“Independence Pass was a nightmare to travel on Sunday,” posted John Timar, owned of the Mt Elbert Lodge which is situated along Highway 82 en route to Independence Pass on the Lake County side.
Neither incident seemed to slow things down at Punky’s Food Trailer down in Twin Lakes Village where the staff reported they were “real busy” from the additional traffic over Independence Pass.
It’s extra business they could see for a while as CDOT officials put a new plan in place for a highway that has been compromised by mudslides with enormous debris fields and while over 100 hundred miles away impacts life in Leadville Today.
CDOT Begins Leadville Highway 24 Paving
I-70 Stretch Shut Down for Weekend
Original story posted: Friday, July 30, 2021 @ 3 p.m.
At 2 p.m. this afternoon, July 30 the Colorado Department of Transportation announced the closure of I-70 through Glenwood Canyon anticipated to last through the weekend. This stretch of interstate continues to experience severe impacts from debris flows along burn scars from the Grizzly Creek fire. The extended safety closure is necessary due to the significant clean-up required after Thursday’s mudslides and debris flows, as well as continued heavy rain in the forecast.
Closer to home the impact is felt in southern Lake County as motorists re-route over Highway 82, also known as Independence Pass. Although CDOT messaging encourages a northern re-route around the closure, for travelers headed south, this southern portal through the Village of Twin Lakes is a popular alternative.
“FYI…there was tons more traffic/activity in and around Twin Lakes as a result of this some weeks back. Also affected cell coverage and slowed down the internet dramatically.” wrote resident Annette Neuhaus Griebel on LT’s Facebook Page. It could be an extra busy weekend in the tiny hamlet, but well worth the visit any day!
Another reader posted: Angie Welsh: “Wow, . . I sure hope the entire highway doesn’t wash out due to the infrastructure damage. It is certainly affecting us up here in Lake County. Some folks (a special truck I need to move a shed) aren’t willing to come up here due to the traffic. It’s easy to see how we’re all connected these days with climate change.”
At approximately 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 29, Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon was closed due to a Flash Flood Warning for the Grizzly Creek burn scar area. CDOT closed I-70 at standard exits to keep the traveling public safe and to access recommended detour routes. At 6:00 p.m. that Flash Flood Warning and a Flash Flood Watch expired, and I-70 was reopened.
Later last night at approximately 9:00 p.m., a new Flash Flood Warning went into effect after storm cells quickly built up in the area. Mudslides and debris reached I-70 within a few minutes. Throughout this time, CDOT highway maintenance personnel were working to secure the roadway and protect life safety. While debris was flowing down onto the roadway, CDOT temporarily evacuated its operations center in Hanging Lake Tunnel and had operations personnel working in the complex shelter in place for their safety. By approximately 10:45 p.m. the Hanging Lake Tunnel operations center was back online.
CDOT staff at the tunnel assisted travelers who were trapped on I-70 by debris flows and sought shelter at Hanging Lake Tunnel; 29 motorists sheltered at the tunnel complex overnight. In total, CDOT has accounted for 108 individuals who have now been either evacuated from Glenwood Canyon or have been moved to a safe place. There were also confirmed reports from CDOT that some of those citizens commandeered a piece of CDOT heavy equipment to clear the road themselves. Mike Goolsby, CDOT’s Regional 3 Director stated in the media Zoom Meeting that the equipment had a mechanical issue and that thankfully the citizen abandoned their efforts once the check engine light came on. Video from today’s 3 p.m. media briefing is posted here.
Media Briefing: Friday, July 30 @ 3 p.m.
CDOT reminds travelers that weather and safety conditions can shift precipitously in a manner of moments in this area, and weather forecasts suggest rain and significant mudslide risk through the weekend.
CDOT crews are now working to regain operational access throughout Glenwood Canyon. Because the National Weather Service has placed this area back under a Flash Flood Watch, there is a limited window of time to move all abandoned vehicles to safety.
With significant additional rain forecasted for the area and the possibility of additional debris flows, I-70 will remain closed between Exits 87 (West Rifle) and 133 (Dotsero). This closure will last at least through this weekend.
CDOT strongly asks that motorists use the recommended northern alternate route via I-70 – CO 9 – US 40 – CO 13. Westbound motorists from the Denver metro area should exit I-70 at Exit 205 (Silverthorne) and travel north on Colorado Highway 9 towards Kremmling. Travelers will continue west on US Highway 40 and then south on CO 13 to complete the alternate route and return to westbound I-70 at Rifle (Exit 90). Eastbound travelers can detour using the same route in reverse.
Don’t Get Swept Away
By Trooper Gary Cutler, Colorado State Patrol
With all of the fires Colorado has had over the past few years we are starting to see a real problem with flash flooding affecting our roadways in burn areas. Recently, I-70 near Glenwood Springs has been shut down multiple times due to mudslides covering the roadway. I thought this would be a good time to go over some of the safety tips we need to do to make sure our travels are done as safely as possible.
If you are planning on traveling, make sure you check two items before leaving your home. First, has there been recent fire activity in the area you are planning to travel, and second, is there any predicted rainfall.
By checking these prior to travelling, you can avoid the dangers of possibly being involved in a flashflood. Remember, the rain doesn’t’ always have to be directly at the place you are located. It can be raining somewhere away from you and the water can travel to your location.
If you come across an area of the road that has had barricades put up, don’t drive around them. Find an alternative route. If you do come across water on the roadway never drive through an area that is flooding. It only takes 6 inches of water to reach the bottom of most passenger vehicles which can cause loss of control and possible stalling of your vehicle. Twelve inches of water will float most vehicles, and 2 feet of rushing water can sweep away most vehicles which includes SUV’s and pickups.
Along with the water there is often debris mixed in it which can include boulders, trees, and sometimes even remains of building structures which can push your vehicle into even further danger.
If there is extremely high, fast-moving water going under a bridge, consider finding another route. The water can have debris and may suddenly surge over the bridge. Depending on the bridge condition and the amount of debris against the bridge, it could crumble under the extreme pressure it is enduring.
If your vehicle is swept away try to remain in your vehicle. Unless water is rising in your vehicle that could be life-threatening, it is safer inside until rescue personnel arrive.
It always comes down to trying not to press your luck and always take the safest route. Do this and you will always be better for it in the end.
As always, safe travels!
Trooper Gary Cutler is a Public Information Officer with the Colorado State Patrol