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I-70 closure to remain in place until interstate surface can be assessed

An aerial view of the debris flow currently blocking the Colorado River through Glenwood Canyon. Courtesy of Colorado Department of Transportation

Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon is expected to remain closed due to potential structure damage underneath the eastbound lanes.

Westbound lanes are currently blocked from a debris flow.

A structural assessment cannot be completed before crews can cut a channel for displaced Colorado River water to flow away from the interstate, CDOT’s Region 3 Director Mike Goolsby explained. Depending on the extent of damage, eastbound I-70 will remain closed for repairs to ensure it is safe for motorists.

“Last night, one of the debris flows that came out was in the Devil’s Hole drainage, which is basically south of the railroad tracks on the other side of the interstate,” Goolsby said. “This debris flow was quite large. It basically dammed off the river and it found the path of least resistance (next to the interstate surface) when it started to flow again.”

Debris flow from Devil’s Hole Creek blocks much of the Colorado River, diverting water so that it’s running right along the eastbound surface of Interstate 70. Courtesy of the Colorado Department of Transportation

Debris is blocking the Colorado River and is sidled up to the edge of the Interstate 70 deck in Glenwood Canyon and will need to be diverted away from I-70, which will require cutting through the debris field.

Goolsby said I-70 continues to be closed in both directions between Glenwood Springs exit 116 and Dotsero exit 133, with no estimated time of reopening due to expected heavy rainfall forecasts for Friday evening and Saturday.

While a midday alert from Garfield County warned of possible debris coming down the Colorado River, that danger has passed for now, unless additional rains bring even more significant debris down into the riverbed, Goolsby said.

“Based on what’s coming down right now, it’s coming in small pieces; it’s not going to come all at once,” he said.

Multiple debris flows occurred during Thursday’s heavy rainfall event. The National Weather Service in Grand Junction has issued a flash flood watch through midnight Saturday with monsoonal rains likely throughout the western Colorado region throughout the week.

All that and the current state of debris flows mean the one question many people have — an estimated time for reopening — is just not available, Trulove said. CDOT crews, however, continue to work around the clock where it is safe and reasonable to get traffic flowing through the canyon once again.

“One of the things that CDOT’s been doing a fantastic job on is bringing in reinforcements,” she said. “We’ve got crews that have been out there with dump trucks and several loaders and working, you know, the scenario, around the clock.”

Beware navigation apps

While CDOT is actively working with Waze, Google Maps and others to keep traffic off alternate routes that are not suitable for heavy traffic, it is still possible that people will find themselves automatically routed on roads such as Cottonwood Pass, Trulove said.

“On Cottonwood Pass, we’re really only trying to put local traffic through there,” she said. “But people are using it like the interstate, and it’s a safety situation.

“We’ve already seen several rollover accidents occur on that roadway.”

Regional travel impacts

Colorado Department of Transportation’s proposed alternate route while Interstate 70 is closed through Glenwood Canyon. Courtesy of CDOT

It’s not just the I-70 corridor feeling the effects of Glenwood Canyon’s closure — communities along the northern detour route are seeing significantly more traffic. Goolsby said some of those roads are not meant for the level of use they’re currently experiencing but that CDOT would go in to do repairs where needed.

“We will have to go out and do some additional maintenance and to take care of some of these areas that are beat up pretty bad,” he said.

Peter Baumann can be reached at pbaumann@postindependent.com or 970-384-9114. Shannon Marvel can be reached at smarvel@postindependent.com or 605-350-8355.

Interstate 70 remains closed Wednesday through Glenwood Canyon as crews clear 5 mudslides

An image from the CDOT camera Wednesday morning shows a mudslide in the westbound lanes about 0.4 miles west of the Bair Ranch rest area on I-70 in Glenwood Canyon.
Image CDOT

Interstate 70 remains closed Wednesday afternoon in both directions between the Dotsero and Glenwood Springs exits because of several mudslides Tuesday night in Glenwood Canyon.

In a 9 a.m. update, the Colorado Department of Transportation said they are clearing five mudslides and are watching the weather through Wednesday. There is no estimated time to open the interstate.

“There are three slides on eastbound I-70 at Mile Points 127.5- 128.5 as well as a westbound mudslide from MP 130.5 to Exit 129 (Bair Ranch). There is also a slide on the Bair Ranch exit off ramp from the westbound lanes,” according to the Wednesday morning update. “At this time there is a greater than 30% chance of a Flash Flood Watch or Flash Flood Warning today for the Grizzly Creek Fire burn area, so the safety closure will continue to be in place as needed in order to ensure motorists are safe.”

The interstate closed about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday when a flash flood warning was issued by the National Weather Service over the burn scar. A strong storm cell moved over the area from about 8 p.m. to about 10 p.m.

I-70 is also closed from the West Rifle to Canyon Creek exits further west but is open to local traffic at Exit 109, Canyon Creek. Motorists are asked to use the northern alternate route as a detour, and avoid using Highway 82 over Independence Pass.


Transportation officials are closing I-70 through Glenwood Canyon when a flash flood warning is in effect in the area because of concerns in the burn scar area from the 2020 wildfire, which burned more than 32,600 acres around the canyon.

“Doppler radar indicated thunderstorms producing heavy rain over the Grizzly Creek Fire Burn Area. The expected rainfall rate is 0.2 to 0.5 inches in 1 hour. Additional rainfall amounts of 0.2 to 0.5 inches are possible in the warned area. Flash flooding is ongoing or expected to begin shortly,” the warning stated.

The section of highway has been closed numerous times this spring and summer because of mudslides that have gone across the road and into the Colorado River.

A section of Colorado Highway 133 south of Carbondale was closed overnight after three mudslides covered the two-lane road just north of Redstone. It was reopened to one lane by Wednesday morning. Also, Independence Pass was closed for a short time Tuesday afternoon because of a mudslide.

In northern Colorado, one person died and two are missing after flooding in the Poudre Canyon northwest of Fort Collins.

Go to cotrip.org to check for more updates around the state.

This is a developing story that will be updated.

I-70 reopens after “shallow mudslides” in Glenwood Canyon cause 4-hour closure

This image from the Colorado Department of Transportation show a “shallow mudslide” in Glenwood Canyon on Wednesday after a rainstorm moved through, closing the interstate.
Courtesy COT

Interstate 70 reopened Wednesday night in the Glenwood Canyon after a more than 4-hour closure following Wednesday afternoon rains that caused “two shallow mudslides,” the Colorado Department of Transportation said.

The road reopened just about 8 p.m. after mudslides happened near mile marker 128 inside the Grizzly Creek burn scar. They were 1 to 3 inches of very slick mud, CDOT said. The closure started about 3:45 p.m. Wednesday.

A flash flood warning was issued Wednesday afternoon, and CDOT is shutting down the interstate in Glenwood Canyon when a warning is issued for the area because of potential mud and debris slides in the burn scar. I-70 eastbound is also closed from the Rifle exit to Dotsero.

The warning expired at 5:30 p.m., but a broader flash flood watch was in effect until 8 p.m. Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.

Looking ahead, drier conditions are expected to return Thursday as high pressure strengthens back over the Great Basin, according to the NWS outlook. “However, diurnal storms will persist over the higher terrain through the weekend,” it said.

UPDATE: I-70 reopening through Glenwood Canyon after threat of heavy rain passes

UPDATE Tuesday 6 p.m. — CDOT crews were in the process of reopening I-70 in Glenwood Canyon as of a little after 6 p.m. Road conditions and emergency closures will continue to be posted to cotrip.org.

UPDATE Tuesday 5:25 p.m. — The Interstate 70 safety closure continues to be in place in Glenwood Canyon, including rest areas and the recreation path, due to the continued threat of heavy rain.

“A Flash Flood Warning has expired, but current weather conditions still show potential for flash flooding in the canyon,” the Colorado Department of Transportation said in an update sent at 5:21 p.m.

A Flash Flood Watch continues into the evening. Updates will be displayed on cotrip.org while the closure is in place.

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Interstate 70 is under another safety closure in both directions through Glenwood Canyon Tuesday afternoon, with a flash flood warning in effect.

A flood watch was issued earlier Tuesday and was upgraded to a warning shortly after 3 p.m., with heavy rains predicted above the Grizzly Creek burn scar.

The closure is in place between milemarkers 87 (Rifle) and 133 (Dotsero) eastbound, with hold points at Rifle and milemarker 109 (Canyon Creek). The westbound closure is between milemarkers 133 (Dotsero) and 116 (Glenwood Springs), according to a Colorado Department of Transportation news alert.

Local traffic is being allowed through between Rifle and the Roaring Fork Valley.

“The safety closure is in place to protect motorists from the potential of flash floods, mudslides, rockfall or other hazards that can be triggered by heavy rains at the location of Grizzly Creek burn scar area,” CDOT said in the release.

The closure will remain in place through the duration of the Flash Flood Warning, which is forecast to end at 5 p.m., CDOT said.

“If a debris flow or mudslide occurs, motorists should be aware that I-70 will be closed for a longer period of time to allow maintenance crews to clear the highway.”

In that case, motorists are advised to take the northern alternate route through Steamboat Springs via state Highways 13, 131 and 9 and U.S. 40, or they may wait out the Flash Flood Warning and safety closure.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

UPDATE: Glenwood Canyon reopened Monday evening, but Flash Flood Watch remains in effect

Monday, July 5 Flash Flood Watch area.
National Weather Service image

UPDATE 6 p.m. Monday: Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon reopened in both directions at 5:33 p.m. Monday night, but a Flash Flood Watch remains in effect until 10 p.m., according to the latest alerts.

“A Flash Flood Warning that had been effect for the Grizzly Creek burn area is now a Flash Flood Watch,” the Colorado Department of Transportation advised in a news release issued at 6:10 p.m. Monday. “There were no debris flow or mudslides during the (earlier) Flash Flood Warning. Crews are reopening eastbound and westbound lanes and will be on standby through the evening.

Updates are being posted to cotrip.org.

Rest areas and the recreation path along I-70 in Glenwood Canyon remain closed for safety reasons. The closure affects the Shoshone Power Plant and Grizzly Creek river put-ins. Also, CDOT advises that bicycles are allowed on the interstate.

A Flash Flood Warning had been issued just before 5 p.m. by the National Weather Service for the area including the Grizzly Creek Fire burn scar. That closed Interstate 70 in both directions through Glenwood Canyon for less than an hour before traffic was allowed to proceed.

Another closure of Glenwood Canyon remains possible if a second Flash Flood Warning is issued.

“Motorists can either seek the northern alternate route via Steamboat Springs or they may wait out (a) Flash Flood Warning and safety closure,” CDOT said in an earlier release. “Motorists who decide to wait out the closure must wait at a location off I-70, and will not be allowed to wait on the roadway.”

If another closure occurs, only local eastbound traffic heading to Glenwood Springs or the Roaring Fork Valley would allowed through, but traffic delays should be anticipated.

The recommended detour route is to the north. Eastbound traffic should take state Highway 13 at Rifle to U.S. 40 through Craig and Steamboat Springs and back to I-70 via either state Highway 131 to Wolcott or Highway 9 to Silverthorne. The reverse route is recommended for westbound traffic.

The alternate route requires about 2.5 hours of additional travel time.

Cottonwood Pass and Independence Pass are not advised for through traffic, and commercial vehicles and RVs are not allowed on those routes.

The first flood warning came less than 20 minutes after the National Weather Service issued a Flash Flood Watch for the area late Monday afternoon. The new watch is in now effect until 10 p.m.

“If a debris flow or mudslide occurs, motorists should be aware that I-70 will be closed for a longer period of time to allow maintenance crews to clear the highway,” CDOT advised.

Multiple mud and debris flows in Glenwood Canyon on Saturday closed I-70 overnight and into Sunday.

This is a developing story will be updated.

Crews clear I-70 after mud and debris slides in Glenwood Canyon, now open both directions

An aerial picture of one of the five debris slide areas along Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon east of Hanging Lake that occurred on Saturday, July 3.
CDOT courtesy photo

Fourth of July travelers stuck on the Glenwood Springs side of Glenwood Canyon had to wait until late afternoon Sunday to head back east on Interstate 70, as highway crews worked to clear several feet of mud and debris from a series of slides that occurred Saturday afternoon.

Westbound lanes were cleared overnight Saturday with one lane reopened early Sunday morning, and a second lane opened a few hours later, while the eastbound lanes remained closed until 4 p.m.

The Glenwood Canyon bike path will likely remain closed for several more days as between 10 and 12 feet of mud covered the path in some sections, Kane Schneider, deputy maintenance director for Colorado Department of Transportation District 2, said during a mid-morning press briefing.

Crews had been busy nonstop since about 3:30 p.m. Saturday clearing mud and debris from five different slide locations within the Grizzly Creek burn scar area.

“Speed limits through the impacted areas are reduced to 40 mph in order to keep residual dust down,” CDOT said in a news release announcing the reopening of the eastbound lanes.

“Please take it slow as dust will still be present following the cleanup efforts at these locations,” CDOT advised.

Also, due to the potential for rain in the forecast Monday, the Grizzly Creek and Shoshone rest areas and the recreation path will remain closed for safety reasons.

The slides occurred around 3:15 p.m. Saturday after a flash flood warning was issued by the National Weather Service. The slides are farther to the east of the area where two other debris slides occurred last weekend closer to Grizzly Creek, also closing I-70 through Glenwood Canyon for several hours.

Mike Goolsby, CDOT Region 3 transportation director, said a single storm cell positioned itself over the Flat Tops above the eastern end of Glenwood Canyon, east of Hanging Lake, on an otherwise rain-free afternoon Saturday.

That was enough to trigger the slides within the more-than 30,000-acre burn scar from the 2020 Grizzly Creek Fire, he said, adding that there are an estimated 20 different drainages through Glenwood Canyon where a slide could occur.

About a dozen vehicles had already made it into the canyon before the closure happened, and were caught between, but not in the slide areas, Schneider said. The motorists were able to be turned around and escorted out of the canyon safely, he said.

After the slides occurred, crews worked more than 24 hours nonstop, clearing and hauling hundreds of loads of debris to stockpiles on either end of the canyon, said Lisa Schwantes, CDOT communications manager.

“There is a lower chance of precipitation today (Sunday) and anticipated higher temperatures, which will help dry out the road surfaces in the canyon,” she said.

During the closure, travelers were being diverted from I-70 at Rifle and points east of Glenwood Canyon onto the recommended northern detour route, via U.S. 40 and state Highways 13, 131 and 9 back to I-70.

Local traffic headed to Glenwood Springs or the Roaring Fork Valley from western Garfield County was being allowed through, according to CDOT.

The more lengthy closure in Glenwood Canyon may be the recreational path between the interstate and the Colorado River. Schneider said the path has about 10 to 12 feet of debris piled on top of it in places, and it will likely be closed for some time.

An aerial picture of one of the five debris slide areas along Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon east of Hanging Lake that occurred on Saturday, July 3.
CDOT courtesy photo

Bob Group, program manager for CDOT’s Geohazards Division, said during the Sunday morning briefing that there’s little that can be done to mitigate for slides, which is always a potential following a major wildfire.

“The fire burned over 30,000 acres, so it’s too big an area to do any kinds of treatments to prevent slides from happening,” he said. “It’s also in a tight, narrow canyon, so there’s not a lot of area to work with to do that kind of migitation.”

Schneider said the slides this weekend and last did not impact the popular Hanging Lake area, which is now operated on a permit system. However, a U.S. Forest Service spokesman said Sunday that Sunday permit holders were being refunded because the area could not be accessed.

Schwantes advised that motorists traveling via I-70 through Glenwood Canyon this summer be prepared for potential closures, and to check weather forecasts and CDOT’s CoTrip.org website for any closures or other alerts that could affect their travel.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

Flash flood watch in effect until 9 p.m. for Grizzly Creek Fire burn scar

A flash flood watch for the Grizzly Creek Fire burn scar is in place until 9 p.m., a National Weather Service alert states.

“Area in portions of northwest Colorado and west central Colorado, including the following areas: in northwest Colorado, Flat Tops,” the alert states. “In west central Colorado, Central Colorado River Basin and Gore and Elk Mountains/Central Mountain Valleys.”

Heavy rain is forecast over the Grizzly Creek Fire burn scar and could bring flash flooding and debris slides. Go to the National Weather Service website for the most up-to-date weather conditions and visit cotrip.org for road conditions.

Flash flood watch in effect until 9 p.m. for Grizzly Creek Fire burn scar

A flash flood watch for the Grizzly Creek Fire burn scar is in place until 9 p.m., a National Weather Service alert states.

“Area in portions of northwest Colorado and west central Colorado, including the following areas: in northwest Colorado, Flat Tops,” the alert states. “In west central Colorado, Central Colorado River Basin and Gore and Elk Mountains/Central Mountain Valleys.”

Heavy rain is forecast over the Grizzly Creek Fire burn scar and could bring flash flooding and debris slides. Go to the National Weather Service website for the most up-to-date weather conditions and visit cotrip.org for road conditions.