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Chain of crashes close pass

Christine Ina Casillas
NWS Pass Closure 11-26 MK
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Vail Pass closed for about an hour Wednesday morning because of a series of accidents that blocked the road, said the Colorado State Patrol.

At 11 a.m., a chain reaction of crashes on Interstate 70 at mile marker 184 closed westbound Vail Pass for about an hour until the accidents were cleaned up, said Sgt. George Dingfelder with the Colorado State Patrol.

“Vail Pass was closed mainly to make it more safe for the tow trucks,” Dingfelder said. “There were so many cars off in a ditch, and the tow trucks needed to move through there safely. It was just in a bad location – that’s why (Vail Pass) was closed down.”



The closure of the pass appeared to cause three more accidents, involving five cars, Dingfelder said. Five or six other cars attempted to avoid the crash and veered into the median.

No injuries were reported.



“All of the cars pulled out of the median and snow were OK,” Dingfelder said. “The drivers were able to pull away and drive away.”

On the higher, top half of the pass, blowing and drifting snow caused several of the crashes, he said.

“There’s been little fronts moving in all day,” he said. “They last 30 minutes, move out, and then we get dumped on again with a bunch of snow, and it slicks everything up. The snow plows can’t get through there in time to clean it up.”



The Vail Police Department didn’t face any problems with the roads during the recurring blasts of snow, said Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger.

But travelers are driving at a snail’s pace, he said.

“Traffic is extremely heavy from mile marker 190 in Summit County to half-way down the pass,” he said.

Wednesday’s closure – on the busy travel day before Thanksgiving – continued a tough month for interstate traffic in the High Country.

The interstate also closed earlier this month, on Nov. 17, just days before Vail and Beaver Creek mountains opened for skiers and snowboarders to hit the slopes.

The interstate was closed that day after a series of crashes in a sudden storm that caused poor visibility and icy road conditions. That storm nailed eastern Eagle County with near white-out conditions, creating pile ups on Interstate 70 and closing the eastbound lane of Vail Pass.

“The storm came in so quickly there was no way for us to keep up with it,” Dingfelder said of that closure. “But, surprisingly, there weren’t very many accidents.”

State Patrol troopers responded to about five minor accidents that day, Dingfelder said, but none were serious.

A portion of Interstate 70 near Dotsero shut down Saturday after a semi-ruck rolled over. Nobody was injured in the accident that happened at 1 p.m. in the westbound lane, around mile marker 147, 10 miles east of Glenwood Canyon, the Colorado State Patrol said.

The interstate reopened at 3:30 p.m. when state patrol moved the truck to the median of the highway.

“The accident happened because of snowing weather conditions,” troopers said.

Christine Ina Casillas can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607 or at ccasillas@vaildaily.com.


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