Colorado’s Extreme Weather Over The Weekend Closes, Opens And Closes Roads Again

Courtesy of Colorado Department of Transportation
Debris from a mudslide fills a box culvert under Interstate 70 in July. Mudslides from the Grizzly Creek fire burn scar are closing the interstate repeatedly.

Another weekend of rain and flooding resulted in several road closures across Colorado.

Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon was temporarily closed in both directions on Saturday out of precaution after the National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning in the Grizzly Creek burn scar area. It reopened in both directions after about two hours. And then it closed again over potential flooding on Sunday night around 8. In Mesa County, eastbound I-70 was also closed on Sunday night because of a mudslide.

But it wasn’t just the threat of mudslides that closed the interstate this weekend. A wildfire that ignited on Sunday closed I-70 in both directions for the 3 miles between Eagle and Gypsum for several hours. 

Sunday also saw several flash flood warnings throughout the state. In the Eastern Plains, thunderstorms caused flood advisories in Elbert and Washington counties. According to National Weather Service meteorologist Zach Hiris, it’s the first time this year they’ve issued a flood advisory in the plains.

“It's definitely been less common this year, to see flood advisories for the plains versus some of our burn areas and the rest of the Front Range,” Hiris said.

At the time of the flood advisory being issued on Sunday afternoon, more than 1.5 inches of rain had fallen on the two counties. Excess rainfall in the plains could cause creeks and streams to overflow and flood country roads or farmland.

Loveland Pass on U.S. 6, which connects several popular ski areas, reopened Sunday after being closed in both directions for several miles due to a mudslide near Arapahoe Basin Ski Area. 

The highways on the Western Slope also saw several closures. South of Grand Junction, Colorado 141 closed for nearly 40 miles from Gateway to Naturita due to a mudslide on Saturday. The weather service in  Grand Junction said an inch of rain caused the closure. It reopened Sunday afternoon. 

Travelers can visit for the latest on road closures. 

Several of the closures seen this week and throughout this summer are caused by mudslides in burn scars from last year’s fire season. Experts say burn scars are more susceptible to flash flooding in the first two years after a wildfire. Research shows wildfire activity in Colorado and other states in the western U.S. has intensified due to climate change, which fuels warmer temperatures and drier conditions. 

Most parts of Colorado will see drier conditions in the first half of the week. Parts of the state may see rain and thunderstorms starting Wednesday.

Courtesy of Colorado Department of Transportation
Debris blankets land around Interstate 70 on July 22, 2021. Mudslides have continuously closed the interstate as rains rush through the Grizzly Creek fire burn scar in Glenwood Canyon.