It was a mess out there |

It was a mess out there

John Colson

Blizzard conditions and a sudden drop in temperatures caused nearly 20 accidents in Aspen and up and down Colorado Highway 82 on Wednesday, as two distinct “storm cells” moved quickly through the area.

According to Aspen and Pitkin County officials, the city police handled at least eight accidents, while the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office dealt with 11.

Colorado State Patrol officers could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon as a dispatcher said they were busy handling calls.

Many of the accidents involved injuries. According to Aspen Valley Hospital spokeswoman Ginny Dyche, as of 5:30 p.m. the hospital had handled “between 15 and 20 people as a result of motor vehicle accidents,” most of whom had minor injuries and were treated and released.

One 48-year-old woman, Dyche said, was listed in critical condition Wednesday night and was being taken to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction for further treatment of unspecified injuries. She would not release the name of the patient and was not certain which town in the valley the woman is from.

Law enforcement and emergency medical personnel scrambled to handle the sudden flood of calls, starting around 1 p.m., of wrecks reported at various points up and down the valley.

An hour later, Pitkin County employees were sent home early by County Manager Hillary Smith.

And at 2:30, Aspen City Manager Steve Barwick put out a memo that all city employees could leave early, as well.

Some of Wednesday’s accidents turned out to be either in different locations than originally reported, or not to be accidents at all by the time police arrived. The confusion apparently came from the reporting parties at the accidents.

Accidents were reported at the Maroon Creek Road roundabout; Owl Creek Road and Highway 82; near the Aspen Village subdivision; in Snowmass Canyon; at the intersection of Snowmass Canyon Road and Watson Divide Road; at mile marker 27 on Highway 82 near the Lazy Glen Mobile Home Park; along Brush Creek Road near Snowmass Village; at Catherine Store Road and Highway 82; and at numerous locations around Aspen.

A multicar wreck at Owl Creek Road and Highway 82 involved a pickup truck, a Lexus and a Ferrell Gas truck, prompting a lane closure while emergency workers checked for a propane lead from the gas truck.

A near head-on collision at Highway 82 and Stage Road involved a firefighter heading downvalley to respond to an accident and an Aspen man who was ticketed for driving too fast for conditions, among other infractions.

In Aspen, a Roaring Fork Transit Agency bus got caught sideways at Main and Second streets, after it slipped trying to get up the hill. Another RFTA bus was involved in a minor crash with a car at Durant and Aspen.

Traffic was shut down in the westbound lanes of the highway near Aspen Village and in both lanes near Lazy Glen, prompting police to announce an accident alert and close the highway shortly after 2 p.m.

The road reopened at 3:10 p.m., according to the sheriff’s office, by which time the weather seemed to have improved and no more accidents were being reported.

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