Slide closes highway at McClure Pass
CARBONDALE – A large avalanche buried Highway 133 near McClure Pass in snow up to 6 feet deep at 5 p.m. Monday, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Transportation said.
The avalanche covered 250 linear feet of the road. “There was a [search] effort to make sure nobody got caught,” CDOT spokeswoman Nancy Shanks said. The slide was at mile marker 44, about a quarter-mile uphill from a big hairpin curve that starts the climb up McClure Pass. That is roughly 24 miles south of Carbondale.
A small slide also closed Castle Creek Road temporarily at 5:45 p.m. Monday, according to the Aspen-Pitkin County Communications Center. The road was reopened by 6:30 p.m.
The Highway 133 slide ran down what is known as the Lone Tree avalanche path, Shanks said. It covered the uphill stretch of road after the switchback, but the slide didn’t travel downhill far enough to cover the stretch below the switchback.
Shanks said CDOT monitors that area after heavy snowfall because it is prone to sliding. About 40 inches of snow fell in the Marble area in the storm cycle that started Friday.
Avalanche control cannot be performed at the Lone Tree path because the Chair Mountain Ranch subdivision is in the valley floor, at the foot of the path.
“We cannot mitigate because that subdivision is there. We don’t want to jeopardize the people there,” Shanks said.
CDOT tends to close the road when the avalanche danger is extreme. The danger wasn’t deemed that high Monday. Shanks said CDOT officials told her the last slide of this magnitude to hit the road in that area was 1995.
Crews were using heavy equipment to remove the snow Monday evening. Both lanes were expected to be closed for at least two to three hours.
Unstable snowpack conditions resulted in slides that covered other roads in the area on Sunday. A plow truck triggered an avalanche that covered one lane of Castle Creek Road just downvalley from Conundrum Valley, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. One lane was covered with snow up to 4 feet deep.
A natural avalanche on Sunday covered about 300 feet of the Gunnison County road into Marble, the avalanche center reported. Both lanes were closed from daybreak to about noon, isolating the small town. Gunnison County road workers stationed in Marble cleared the debris.
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