Monday, 20 Sep 2021

I-70 in Glenwood Canyon closed for “extended” period due to mudslides

Interstate 70 through the Glenwood Canyon will remain closed for an extended period of time as transportation officials wrestle with unprecedented damage from multiple mudslides and floods.

The highway has been closed in both directions between Dotsero and west Rifle since Thursday, and there’s no estimate for when it will reopen, Colorado Department of Transportation communications director Matt Inzeo said Sunday.

“From the briefing call that I was a part of, senior operations supervisors and engineers described extreme damage, the likes of which they had never seen in the canyon before,” he said.

Flash flooding over the 32,000-acre Grizzly Creek fire burn scar this weekend dropped debris on about 10 different spots on the interstate. In some places, rocks, mud and trees are 10 to 12 feet deep. In other areas, debris is scattered for 200 yards.

CDOT’s dump trucks hauled 130 loads of mudslide and flood debris from the canyon on Saturday, Inzeo said, which is a logistically tricky process given the narrow access to the area. The trucks sometimes have to back up for hundreds or thousands of feet before they can turn around, he said.

The situation is also rapidly changing in the canyon, Inzeo added, and additional debris flows are happening most days.

About 21,000 to 25,000 vehicles typically cross I-70 each day during the summer months, Inzeo said. Drivers now face an about four-hour detour to bypass the closure.

CDOT recommends drivers headed west exit the interstate onto Colorado 9 in Silverthorne, take that north to U.S. 40 and Steamboat Springs, then continue to Craig before heading back south on Colorado 13 and reconnecting with I-70 in Rifle. Eastbound drivers should follow the same detour in reverse, CDOT said.

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