Crews clean up Glenwood Canyon mudslides, but more rainfall in this week’s forecast
Cleanup of a mudslide that forced the closure of Interstate 70 from Dotsero to Rifle wrapped up Monday evening, more than 24 hours after the debris went across the highway.
Colorado Department of Transportation crews reopened the eastbound lanes around 3 p.m. Monday, and then westbound lanes opened three hours later. A mudslide about 5 p.m. Sunday closed the canyon, which also shut down Saturday because of debris flows onto the interstate.
The rainfall event that occurred over Grizzly Creek Fire burn scar dropped about a half-inch of rain over the course of 35 minutes Sunday afternoon, according Tom Renwick, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.
Renwick said rain is expected to fall in the Glenwood Springs area throughout the week, though the exact locations are unknown.
“With the amount of moisture coming up, we’re looking at a prolonged period of this happening each and every evening,” Renwick said of the week’s forecast.
“Unless things change drastically, these moistures will come up, and stay in the atmosphere, with daytime heating we’ll just get more showers.”
Renwick said the amount of rainfall that caused the mudslide wasn’t significant.
“Over a burn scar, we don’t need much for things to get going,” he added.
Rain on Saturday also caused debris slides in the burn area and closed the interstate Saturday afternoon, but it reopened late Saturday night.
Fred Cummings, a maintenance foreman for CDOT, said Monday’s cleanup crew consisted of 24 workers, of which eight manned the closures,12 operated trucks, three operated loaders and one operated an excavator.
The canyon closure sent motorists scrambling for detours, and Cottonwood Pass outside of Gypsum to the Roaring Fork Valley as well as Independence Pass east of Aspen to Twin Lakes were closed for a time Monday afternoon because of a traffic accident and a stuck vehicle, respectively.
A number of rafters were on the Colorado River and in the area of the mudslides when they were reported Sunday, said Phoebe Larsson, owner of Whitewater Rafting LLC.
“The river is actually the safest place to be during a mudslide,” Larsson said. “So we weren’t concerned about their safety, but we do have some vehicles trapped at Grizzly Creek that we can’t get to until closures wrap up.”
Larsson said CDOT has been great with communicating to outfitting groups to alert them of closures.
“We just follow protocols and the flood warnings,” Larsson said. “We’re looking at a summer that’s lower in precipitation, so we’re hoping that this is a unique event that doesn’t happen a lot this summer.”
Larsson said that when the canyon is closed, rafters still have other river options to choose from, including the Roaring Fork River and the lower Colorado River.
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