Multiple pileups close I-70 for hours Monday afternoon
March 4, 2013
VAIL – More than 50 vehicles were tangled up in crashes and Interstate 70 was closed most of Monday afternoon as a heavy storm rolled through the Rockies.
First, the good news.
The storm dumped more than a foot of new snow on some ski resorts, and hammered Vail and Beaver Creek. Loveland reported a foot of new snow Monday, and Copper Mountain reported 10 inches.
And now the better news.
By deadline Monday, no serious injuries were reported from the multitude of automobile wrecks, although three people in a Summit County were banged up enough to be sent to the hospital, according to Lake Dillon Fire Rescue.
After closing I-70 around 1:30 p.m., the Colorado Department of Transportation reopened both lanes in both directions by 5:15 p.m. Monday.
“We were seeing blizzard conditions. We had such poor visibility and that was most of the problem motorists were experiencing,” said Mindy Crane, Department of Transportation spokeswoman.
Summit County saw two massive pileups, 25 cars on I-70 near Silverthorne, and 29 cars on I-70 near Frisco, witnesses said.
No injuries were reported from that one either, said the Colorado State Patrol.
Several other cars were involved in other wrecks as the storm created blizzard conditions and practically eliminated visibility.
Interstate 70 was closed most of Monday afternoon between Georgetown and Vail. Westbound I-70 also was closed at briefly at Floyd Hill east of Denver because of accidents.
Conditions were so bad that the Department of Transportation highway camera at the Eisenhower Tunnel was covered with ice.
“It started on the east side of Eisenhower Tunnel and just kept getting worse,” said Ashley Mohr, Department of Transportation spokesperson for the region including Eagle County. “Folks were going too fast for the conditions.”
Road conditions were improving by the minute late Monday afternoon, said Trooper Nate Reid, public information officer with the Colorado State Patrol.
By late Monday afternoon, the Department of Transportation had started opening lanes and traffic was moving slowly.
Reid said he’d like to emphasize moving slowly.
“We’ll say the same thing you always hear. Give the person in front of you plenty of room. Don’t get in a hurry,” Reid said. “We think we have to pass that semi truck. But if that truck is chained up and moving up the hill, relax and settle in behind it.”
Closing the interstate gives the tow truck drivers plenty of room to remove disabled vehicles, and Colorado State Patrol time to investigate the crashes, Reid said.
“It’s a mess but we’re getting through it,” Reid said.
By the time you read this, Mother Nature will have done her part to clean it up. The forecast calls for clear skies and daytime temperatures in the 30s and low 40s through Thursday night.
Even with recent snowstorms, Colorado’s snowpack remains at 72 percent of normal and 90 percent of last year’s readings, said the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.