Travelers stranded during second Glenwood Canyon closure Thursday night, hole up at tunnels until they could be escorted out safely

Colorado Department of Transportation crews inspect the aftermath of Thursday night’s heavy rains on Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon. The highway remains closed indefinitely while crews clean up the mess and remove several stranded vehicles.
CDOT photo

A heavy rainstorm and active flash flooding that caused a second closure of Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon on Thursday night stranded several travelers who had to be rescued from the Hanging Lake Tunnels complex.

Nearly 30 motorists were stranded in or between several mudslides or found refuge in the tunnels around 9 p.m. before the second full closure of I-70 was put into place, according to a Garfield County Sheriff’s Office press release.

A highway closure earlier in the evening was lifted after a National Weather Service flash flood warning had expired, but another active storm cell quickly moved over the area, causing widespread mudslides and dangerous lightning. Colorado Highway 133 and Cottonwood Pass were both also closed for a period of time.

See this and another video below of the debris slide and flooding aftermath along I-70 in Glenwood Canyon, courtesy Jim Bair:

In Glenwood Canyon, a few vehicles and their passengers were able to shelter in place within the Hanging Lake Tunnels, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Garfield County Emergency Operations was activated, Sheriff’s spokesman Walt Stowe said, and a temporary shelter was set up at the Glenwood Recreation Center where Red Cross is prepared to handle incomers to that facility.

“The Garfield County Sheriff’s Office along with Glenwood Fire and a bus from RFTA (Roaring Fork Transportation Authority) headed into the Canyon to reach the twenty-plus individuals that were in the tunnel,” according to the release. “They followed CDOT crews as they made a path through two debris flow areas to reach the tunnel.”

Early Friday morning the bus reached the tunnel and took people back to Glenwood Springs, the release stated. “Several motorists drove their own vehicles out, following the bus to safety and shelter at the Rec Center.”

I-70 remains closed through the canyon, as there are still multiple vehicles caught in the canyon and CDOT crews are assessing the numerous mud and debris flow areas to prepare for cleanup.

“CDOT will be busy rescuing these vehicles and their occupants while cleaning up the debris flows,” the Sheriff’s release advises. “Motorists should plan on an alternative route, as this will likely be an extended closure of the I-70 corridor through Glenwood Canyon.”

The recommended alternate route for I-70 through traffic is via U.S. 40 to the north through Steamboat Springs and Craig, using the connecting routes of Colorado Highways 13, 131 and 9.

Check for continuous Colorado highway updates.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or