Interstate Reopens After “Sloppy, Wet” Mudslides Blanket I-70 For Second Weekend

July 4, 2021
Mudslide on I-70Mudslide on I-70Courtesy of CDOT
At least five mudslides on Saturday, July 3, 2021, closed Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon along the burn scar of the Grizzly Creek fire.

Multiple mudslides inundated Interstate 70 along a 2-mile stretch of Glenwood Canyon’s burn scar area on Saturday, shutting down the highway during the busy holiday weekend. 

Westbound lanes reopened by Sunday morning and all lanes were open by 4 p.m.

“Our crews are dealing with a challenge of very sloppy, wet, messy material. We have about a dozen trucks that have been carrying hundreds of loads of debris to stockpiles miles away from the burn scar area,” said Lisa Schwantes, a spokesperson for CDOT.

More than 30 CDOT employees were working to clear the road on Sunday, but the work is messy and the mud is difficult to corral, Schwantes said. 

She said the warmer temperatures and lower chances of rain on Sunday were good news for the crews — and for travelers. 

Schwantes said five mudslides occurred around 3 p.m. Saturday, trapping about a dozen cars on the interstate. No one was injured, but CDOT crews were in waist-deep mud helping drivers out of the mess. 

This is the latest closure of I-70 in recent weeks. Mudslides in a different area of the burn scar in the canyon closed the highway last weekend and flash-flood warnings have also shut down the road. 

Bob Group, program manager for CDOT’s Geohazards Division, said there’s not a lot they can do to prevent these mudslides. 

“The fire burned over 30,000 acres. So it's really just too big of an area to treat, um, in terms of preventing it,” Group said. “It's complicated by the fact that we're in a tight, narrow canyon, there isn't a lot of area to work on mitigation.”

He said that the different areas where mudslides are flowing onto the highway show the scope and extent of the problem in Glenwood Canyon, where the Grizzly Creek fire burned both sides of the canyon and shut down I-70 for days. 

“Throughout the canyon, we're dealing with a lot of different drainages. There's upwards of 20 drainages that have an elevated risk of debris flow,” Group said. 

Mudslide on I-70Courtesy of CDOT
At least five mudslides on Saturday, July 3, 2021, closed Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon along the burn scar of the Grizzly Creek fire.

The bike path through the canyon is also closed. Kane Schneider with CDOT’s maintenance team said there is no estimate on when that path will reopen. 

“We still have 10 to 12 feet of debris down on the rec path,” Schneider said. 

Schwantes said people who plan to drive the interstate just need to be prepared because weather incidents can happen at a moment’s notice. 

“Do I know what the weather forecast is like? Have I checked in with cotrip.org so that I can see everything from where there might be some maintenance activity happening to alerted closures that happened?” she said.

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