Mudslide closes I-70

Steve LynnVail correspondentAspen, CO Colorado
NWS Mud Slide PU 7-19-07

WOLCOTT – Bill Steavens did not see the slew of mud coming down the north side of Interstate 70 until it trapped his car.Steavens’ Chrysler Sebring was stuck in about a foot-and-a-half of red mud until road crews were able to clear enough mud away that he could start driving again. “I was driving, taking my time because of the rain and all of a sudden the mountain started coming down on me,” said Bill Steavens, who was headed home from work to Grand Junction.

After a heavy downpour, a mudslide closed almost a football-field length of I-70 for several hours shortly after 3 p.m. Thursday afternoon.The interstate’s east lanes opened after a short time, but the west lanes were closed for three hours before one was opened. Shortly afterward, though, officials closed both west lanes again and they remained closed as of 7:30 p.m. Thursday.The mudslide also closed Highway 6 for about 20 minutes. After it reopened, traffic was slow.

People waited out the closure by talking outside their vehicles and walking along the interstate’s shoulder. Two men even rode their skateboards up and down the interstate along the center line. Marc Wamgerin was drinking a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon as the skateboarders rolled by. “I figure if you aren’t driving, you might as well enjoy it,” Wamgerin said.

Bobby Munz, of Kansas, had been waiting an hour in the stagnant traffic, he said. Munz was chatting with Wamgerin because it was “better than sitting in [the car] by yourself,” he said. Bulldozers and a front loader were removing the mud from the interstate, but traffic was backed up almost to Edwards Thursday night. The slide was about 75 yards long, said Eagle County Sheriff’s Deputy Justin Clark.

There were no injuries but two cars were stuck, he said. Water in places was waist deep and as much as three or four feet of mud covered the road, he said.Steavens called his run-in with the mudslide “bad timing,” but was glad that he and his company car were OK, he said.”Luckily somebody was looking after me today,” he said.