‘Whiteout conditions’ over Independence Pass on Monday afternoon, officials warn
The winter weather that came through the Colorado mountains Sunday is expected to last into Monday evening and has made travel difficult over Independence Pass east of Aspen, officials said Monday afternoon.
Another winter weather advisory issued by the National Weather Service’s Grand Junction office is scheduled to run until 9 p.m. Monday. The Aspen area is forecast to get about an inch of snow, according to the weather service forecast, with a few more inches of snow at higher elevations.
In a Pitkin County Alert sent just after 3:30 p.m. Monday, officials said “whiteout conditions, travel not recommended” over Independence Pass.
Wind gusts up to 40 mph causing “patchy blowing snow (that) could significantly reduce visibility, especially on ridge tops. Gusty winds could bring down tree branches,” are part of the NWS forecast.
Highway 82 over Independence Pass stayed open over the weekend. The Colorado Department of Transportation is the agency that decides if Independence Pass closes. The agency sends out information via its Twitter account @ColoradoDOT and online at cotrip.org.
Independence Pass typically closes for the season within the first two weeks of November. Last year, the pass closed Nov. 5 after a storm dropped a foot of snow at the summit, which is 12,095 feet. It closed Nov. 17 in both 2016 and 2017, according to CDOT. In 2015, it closed for the season Nov. 4.
“Showers will taper off by Monday afternoon, with the next best chance of mountain showers (coming) Wednesday,” according to the forecast.
The high Monday in Aspen is 42 degrees, and 54 degrees for Tuesday. Overnight lows are in the 20s nearly all week.
Interstate 70 over Vail Pass was closed at times over the weekend and chain laws were activated.
For those traveling via the airport, the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport website updates arrival and departure times at aspenairport.com. There were delays and cancellations over the weekend at the Aspen airport.
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Mountain Rescue Aspen is expanding its education efforts to try to keep people safe in the backcountry during winters and summers. It will host a workshop on Dec. 8 titled, “How to Plan a Backcountry Tour.”