Weather outlook worrisome as Glenwood Canyon cleanup, repair work continues
Work continues along Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon to remove debris and make repairs following the recent mudslides and debris flows, with a wary eye toward the midweek weather forecast.
On Tuesday, the Colorado Department of Transportation had occasional traffic holds in the canyon while crews installed digital sensors on the “super sack” walls that were erected near mile marker 123 last week to protect against falling rocks. The sensors are meant to detect any movement in the walls.
CDOT also explained that a brief highway closure in the canyon on Sunday evening was out of an abundance of caution due a potential weather event, and came at the request of the Colorado State Patrol.
“A rain cell that passed over the canyon produced some rain from about mile point 123 east to the Hanging Lake Tunnel,” CDOT said in its Monday media update. “The cell was small and fast-moving, and after discussion with NOAA it was isolated, and the agency reported dry air in the lower atmosphere.”
To be on the safe side, a temporary closure was issued at 4:42 p.m. Sunday. It was reopened within the hour, by 5:20 p.m., CDOT said.
Again Monday evening the National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch over the area, including Glenwood Canyon. I-70 remained open, but crews were on standby just in case it turned into a warning.
All summer, CDOT has closed I-70 in the canyon whenever a flash flood warning — meaning heavy rain is imminent — goes into effect over the Grizzly Creek burn scar.
“A left lane closure at mile point 116 (main Glenwood Springs exit) was put into place in the event heavy rainfall moved into the burn scar area, which would make it easier to conduct a full canyon closure,” CDOT explained in its Tuesday update.
Only light rain was reported in the canyon, and the road remained open.
Dry weather was expected to continue through Tuesday, but that is expected to change Wednesday, CDOT advised.
“A sharp pattern change arrives Wednesday, leading to a good chance for showers and storms over all of western Colorado,” CDOT advised. “Any thunderstorms will be capable of moderate to heavy rainfall, and likely exceed thresholds over the burn scar … current model trends (Tuesday) indicate a high risk for excessive rainfall across the area.”
In the event of a highway closure, digital message boards will display the closure points and the recommended detour, CDOT explained.
If a closure is needed, the detour would be the same as when the canyon closed on July 29 for 15 days due to major slide activity, sending cross-state passenger and commercial vehicles to the north via U.S. 40 and state Highways 9 or 131 from the east and Highway 13 from the west.
Motorists and truck drivers are advised to monitor CDOT messaging on CoTrip.org, Facebook and Twitter and to check the weather forecast before driving through the canyon.
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