Mudslides bring I-70 traffic through Aspen with more rain predicted
The closure of Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon all day Wednesday flushed a steady stream of traffic through Aspen and up Independence Pass, law enforcement officials said.
Aspen Police Sgt. Terry Leitch said the traffic heading east through Aspen looked like rush hour for the entire day.
“What we usually see between 7:30 (a.m.) and 10 and from 3:30 (p.m.) to 5, that was all day long,” he said. “We have a constant flow going up and through town.”
Traffic heading out of town also was heavy all day, though he said downvalley traffic was like that before the Glenwood Canyon closure.
Colorado Department of Transportation employees were posted at the Pitkin County and Lake County sides of Independence Pass to guard against semi-trucks and other vehicles longer than 35-feet sneaking up the narrow road and snarling traffic, Letich said. Still, one oversized vehicle — it wasn’t clear Wednesday afternoon exactly what it was — made it up the Pass and stopped traffic in the early afternoon, he said.
Deputies with the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office had to go up to the area and help the vehicle back down out of the narrow area and turn around, Leitch said. A call to the Sheriff’s Office seeking more information Wednesday afternoon was not returned.
Rainstorms in the high country caused mudslides Tuesday in five spots on the interstate in Glenwood Canyon, according to CDOT news releases. In addition, three mudslides Tuesday reduced Highway 133 near McClure Pass south of Carbondale to one lane of alternating traffic Wednesday, while two slides near the top of Independence Pass on the Lake County side caused issues Tuesday evening.
The slides near the top of the Pass were each about 20 feet long and four feet deep, according to a CDOT maintenance supervisor who was on scene. Despite previous warnings, Independence Pass was never closed Tuesday, the supervisor said.
Glenwood Canyon closed about 8:45 p.m. Tuesday after the five separate mudslides and opened late Wednesday night.
A CDOT news release warned of “the monsoon season in full effect during the next 7-10 days” with slow-moving storms and the possibility of significant rain in wildfire burn scars across the state, including the Grizzly Creek Fire scar in Glenwood Canyon.
The National Weather Service forecast says the monsoonal moisture in western Colorado will mean “daily scattered to numerous showers and thunderstorms” through the weekend. “Localized flash flooding will be possible in response to heavy rains and saturated soils,” according to the NWS hazardous weather outlook.
Transportation officials are closing I-70 through the canyon when a flash flood warning is in effect in the area because of concerns from the 2020 wildfire, which burned more than 32,600 acres around the canyon.
The differences between Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo and Michael Buglione — whether professional, political or personal — were on full display at Thursday’s candidate debate held in Aspen.