UPDATE (Wednesday, 11:25 a.m.): U.S. Highway 550 is closed in both directions between Ouray and north of Hermosa because of heavy snow and high avalanche danger at Red Mountain, Molas and Coal Bank passes, according to Colorado State Patrol and CDOT. Click here for the latest.
DENVER – U.S. Highway 550 will close at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Red Mountain Pass because of poor road conditions and continuing snow, and Colorado Department of Transportation officials say they are not sure when it might reopen.
The area has already received around a foot of snow, according to reports as of 2:30 p.m. Winter storm warnings are in effect for the San Juan Mountains for 1-2 feet of snow through Thursday morning, with potentially higher amounts and winds that could gust up to 50 miles per hour.
The National Weather Service in Grand Junction said another round of heavy snow should be expected Tuesday night through Wednesday evening.
Avalanche watches are in effect through Wednesday in the area, and the avalanche danger was rated as considerable for Tuesday, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. The avalanche danger will move to high near and above treeline in the San Juans, according to the CAIC.
CDOT crews performed avalanche mitigation on the north side of Red Mountain between the top of the pass and Ouray, and crews will likely be bringing down avalanches they will have to clear for the next couple days.
At the Blue Point slide path, one of the avalanches brought down more than 8 feet of snow in the middle of the highway, CDOT said.
While Red Mountain Pass will close at 6 p.m., CDOT also warned that Coal Bank Pass and Molas Pass could also close if conditions continue to deteriorate as expected. The Molas Pass weather station reported a foot of snow at 7:30 a.m., while 11 inches were reported at Coal Bank Pass at the same time.
Once the highway closes at 6 p.m., southbound traffic will be stopped just south of Ouray. Northbound traffic will be stopped just north of Silverton. CDOT is advising people who need to travel in the area to use Colorado Highway 145 through Telluride “until further notice.”
Click here for the latest road conditions statewide.