Pass closes for winter | AspenTimes.com

Pass closes for winter

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Drifting snow and whiteout conditions forced road crews to close Independence Pass for the winter at about midnight on Wednesday.

The Colorado Department of Transportation had been working to keep the pass east of Aspen open until its scheduled Nov. 7 closure, but conditions on the pass were no longer safe for plow drivers or the traveling public on Wednesday night, according to Adam Padilla, junior supervisor of maintenance for CDOT in Glenwood Springs.

“The conditions got too hazardous up there around midnight ? heavy winds, drifting, whiteout conditions,” he said yesterday morning.

Plow drivers starting from both the Aspen and Twin Lakes sides locked the gates behind them and drove to the top of the 12,095-foot pass. They met at the top, turned around and headed back down, making sure no motorists were left stranded above the closures on either side.

“By closing the gates prior to that last pass, we make sure nobody gets up there behind us,” Padilla said.

One broken-down car was spotted off the highway. The Colorado State Patrol has contacted its owner, who must make arrangements to get it off the pass soon or it will be there for the winter, he said.

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Padilla wasn’t sure how much snow fell on the pass overnight Wednesday. It was the drifting that forced the early closure, he said.

“The winds are blowing so hard, it pretty much drifts to the height of the guardrails. It’s unsafe for everybody at that point,” Padilla said.

Highway 82 over Independence Pass will remain closed until late next May.

Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com