GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. — Both directions of Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon reopened Wednesday night after the Colorado Department of Transportation shut the interstate down Tuesday due to a flash flooding potential.
The interstate was closed for approximately 25 hours.
Crews worked to clear five mudslides Wednesday morning: three on eastbound I-70 at milepoints 127.5 to 128.5, one westbound from milepoint 130.5 to exit 129 (Bair Ranch) and one on the Bair Ranch exit off ramp from the westbound lanes.
The interstate closed around 8:45 p.m. Closure points run from Exit 133 (Dotsero) to Exit 116 (Glenwood Springs). Closure points for eastbound traffic begins at Exit 87 (West Rifle) and continues through Exit 109 (Canyon Creek).
The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for the Grizzly Creek Fire burn scar area until 10:30 p.m. CDOT said it was monitoring and assessing several mudslides on the road caused by the afternoon and evening rain.
⚠️ UPDATE: CDOT crews are monitoring and assessing several mudslides on #I70 in Glenwood Canyon. Safety is the top priority tonight and crews will begin clean up once it is safe to do so. All closure status updates will be at https://t.co/uOU0HHtweG and 511. pic.twitter.com/Jb9ccuXUSg— Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) (@ColoradoDOT) July 21, 2021
A flash flood warning in the area prompts CDOT to close I-70 through Glenwood Canyon to prevent drivers from getting caught in potential mudslides triggered by heavy rain over the burn scar.
Portions of I-70 through Glenwood Canyon have been shut down several times in June and July after mudslides washed up on the roadway, at times trapping vehicles between slides.
CDOT said there is no easy solution to the problem. The source of the mudslides is the Grizzly Creek Fire burn scar. The human-caused fire started Aug. 10, 2020 in Glenwood Canyon and burned more than 32,000 acres in the White River National Forest. CDOT said due to the size of the burn scar and terrain of the canyon, mitigation is nearly impossible.
These closures may last a few minutes or several hours, depending on the incident. If the closure lasts longer than an hour, traffic will be diverted to the northern alternate route.
The northern alternate route includes at least a two-hour-long detour. Westbound traffic can exit at Silverthorne and travel north on Colorado 9 to U.S. 40, then west to Craig. From Craig, take Colorado 13 south to Rifle and back on I-70. Eastbound traffic will need to exit at Rifle and take the same route in the other direction.
Drivers planning to use I-70 or other high-country roads should bring supplies with them in case they need to spend extended time in the car, CDOT said. At the minimum, this can include water, snacks, flashlight, and a blanket.