GCECA: Glenwood Canyon reopened to traffic

Garfield County Emergency Communications Authority

Sept. 29, 2021, 1:07 p.m.: Interstate 70 is again open in both directions between mile markers 87 and 133 in both east-and westbound lanes, west Rifle to Dotsero.

Colorado Department of Transportation

Water and debris flow onto Interstate 70 in Glenwood canyon, necessitating a closure.

Sept. 29, 2021, 9:18 a.m.: I-70 through Glenwood Canyon is closed due to Flash Flood Warning and mudflow

The Colorado Department of Transportation has closed Interstate 70 in both directions through Glenwood Canyon at mile points 133 (Dotsero) and MP 116 (Glenwood Springs) due to a Flash Flood Warning issued by the National Weather Service at 8:10 a.m. today, Sept. 29. The Flash Flood Warning is in effect through 1 p.m. barring any changes to the forecast. Some mudflow in the Canyon was also detected. Motorists should plan on Glenwood Canyon being closed through the remainder of the Flash Flood Warning.

A traffic control point is in place at eastbound Exit 87 (West Rifle) to guide motorists to the northern alternate route (see map below). Visitors and local traffic traveling eastbound to Glenwood Springs and destinations in the Roaring Fork Valley can continue down US 6 and enter back on eastbound I-70 at Exit 90 (Main Rifle), Exit 97 (Silt) or Exit 105 (New Castle).

CDOT crews will continue to assess the burn scar area and will determine if it is safe to reopen when the Warning is lifted. In the event that a new mudslide occurs or a significant amount of slide materials from the mudslide path blocks the interstate, the closure may be extended past the Flash Flood Warning being lifted. Motorists should monitor COtrip.org for road closure information and continue to check the weather forecast before traveling in this area or through the mountains. 

Motorists are urged to continue tuning into weather forecasts and checking COtrip.org before traveling through the Canyon this holiday weekend and prepare for closures. 

TRAFFIC IMPACTS: 

  • Full closure of I-70 between Dotsero (MP 133) and Glenwood Springs (MP 116) – Motorists are strongly encouraged to use the recommended northern alternate route
    • Westbound motorists from the Denver metro area should exit I-70 at Exit 205 (Silverthorne) and travel north on Colorado Highway 9 towards Kremmling. Travelers will continue west on US Highway 40 and then south on CO 13 to complete the alternate route and return to westbound I-70 at Rifle (Exit 90).
  • Eastbound travelers can detour using the same route in reverse.

ENCOUNTERING INCLEMENT WEATHER

Heavy rains and summer storms can lead to challenging driving conditions. Colorado highways, particularly those in mountainous areas, can be vulnerable to the impacts of weather and the natural environment. It is important that the traveling public be aware of summer weather conditions and forecasts. Just as motorists prepare for driving in the winter time, during summer months, travelers should also be ready for heavy rain storms, hail storms and what can potentially occur after those storms – flooding, mudslides and falling rocks.

WHY CLOSURES ARE NEEDED

The safety of motorists is vital. When CDOT and the Colorado State Patrol determine that a road must be closed, the decision is made to protect everyone including motorists and response crews. The need for some closures is obvious – mudslides cover the highway, large boulders tumble onto the road, or a severe vehicle crash occurs. 

If you are stuck in a closure waiting for a road to be cleared of mud or rocks, do not leave your car unless absolutely necessary. Never hang out in the grassy median located between lanes. If traffic is moving in the opposite direction, the median can be a hazardous area. Emergency response vehicles and heavy equipment may also need the median area to move about and access the emergency scene.

BE PREPARED

Highway closures can last for as little as a few minutes or for as long as several hours. When drivers set out on a trip, especially through high country roads or the I-70 mountain corridor, it would be wise to have the car supplied with an emergency kit. The kit should contain at the very minimum: water, snacks, flashlight, and a blanket. Remember to also carry water for your pets if you’re traveling with animals. You may even consider packing some items to keep you or children occupied while waiting in the car. Activity books, colored pencils or a deck of cards can help pass the time.

DRIVER SAFETY

Heavy rains can cause flooding, mudslides and rock falls in regions downstream and on roadways adjacent to canyons, steep slopes or cliff walls. While I-70 through Glenwood Canyon will close well before there is a potential for flooding on the highway, motorists may drive up onto a flooded area on other mountainous roads and should follow the several precautions listed below:

  • Never drive through any flooded area, you do not know how deep or how fast the water is running.
  • Even 8-10 inches of water can float an average-sized car, which can be easily swept off the road.
  • Driving too fast on wet roads or in flooded areas can cause a vehicle to hydroplane. Never use your cruise control during rainy conditions with standing water on the roadway.
  • Any amount of flooding or mud can obstruct the roadway and hinder drivers from knowing exactly where to drive. If you cannot see the roadway, be smart and wait for the water to subside.
  • Water and mud can contain unknown hazards hidden under the surface – rocks or other debris, like plant material and tree branches.

Sept. 29, 2021, 9 a.m.: I-70 in Glenwood Canyon is closed at Exit 87 (West Rifle), Exit 109 (Canyon Creek), Exit 116 (Glenwood Springs) and Exit 133 (Dotsero), due to flash flooding potential for the Grizzly Creek burn scar. A flash flood warning is in effect for the burn scar. Local eastbound traffic on I-70 will be allowed east of Exit 109, but motorists should expect delays. Eastbound I-70 detour: CO 13 Rifle to Craig, east on US 40 to Steamboat over Rabbit Ears Pass to Kremmling down CO 9 to Silverthorne. Westbound I-70 detour: See prior route, in reverse.

National Weather Service

Sept. 29, 2021, 8:41 a.m.: The National Weather Service in Grand Junction has issued a flash flood warning for the Grizzly Creek Fire Burn Area in Western Eagle County in west central Colorado; East Central Garfield County in west central Colorado until 1 p.m. MDT.

At 8:41 a.m. MDT, emergency management reported thunderstorms producing heavy rain over the Grizzly Creek Fire Burn Area. Flash flooding is already occurring.

Excessive rainfall over the burn scar will result in debris flow moving through the Glenwood Canyon area. The debris flow can consist of rock, mud, vegetation and other loose materials.

HAZARD: Life threatening flash flooding. Thunderstorms producing flash flooding in and around the Grizzly Creek Fire Burn Area.

SOURCE: Emergency management reported.

IMPACT: Life-threatening flash flooding of areas in and around the Grizzly Creek Fire Burn Area.

  • Some locations that will experience flash flooding include… Glenwood Springs and Shoshone. This includes the following highways Interstate 70 in Colorado between mile markers 116 and 129.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…

This is a life threatening situation. Heavy rainfall will cause extensive and severe flash flooding of creeks, streams, and
ditches in the Grizzly Creek Fire Burn Area. Severe debris flows can also be anticipated across roads. Roads and driveways may be washed away in places. If you encounter flood waters, climb to safety.

Turn around, don`t drown when encountering flooded roads. Most flood deaths occur in vehicles.

Garfield County Emergency Communications Authority

Sept. 29, 2021, 8:40 a.m.: Interstate 70 is closed between mile markers 87 and 133 eastbound, west Rifle and Dotsero, and mile markers 133 to 116 westbound, Dotsero to Glenwood Springs, due to a flash flood warning with debris flow.

GCECA: Glenwood Canyon reopened to traffic