Feds to increase monitoring after Grizzly Creek fire raises risk of catastrophic landslides in Glenwood Canyon

Bruce Finley, Denver Post
With the possibility of rain and precipitation in the next couple of days, Colorado Department of Transportation crews are preparing for possible closures due to rock falls and landslides that come with rain. This photo was captured earlier in August.
Chris Dillmann |

Wildfires burning away trees and shrubs along the Interstate 70 corridor through Glenwood Canyon, perennially plagued by falling rocks, have raised risks of catastrophic landslides — prompting federal geologists to install more monitoring sensors.

Barren slopes above I-70 have become so unstable that modest rain could set off sediment catapulting far beyond flames, a U.S. Geological Survey assessment has found.

And federal authorities aim to improve early warning capabilities — even by a couple minutes — and minimize false alarms, to protect the growing population drawn by residential and commercial development around Glenwood Springs.

U.S. Geological Survey director Jim Reilly joined a team of federal hydrologists in Colorado on Thursday assessing the impacts of the 32,302-acre Grizzly Creek fire in Glenwood Canyon and the 139,006-acre Pine Gulch fire near Grand Junction in the broader context of climate change.

Adapting to landscapes where warming temperatures accelerate changes — rising sea levels, flooding, shifts to aridity — will require increased monitoring, Reilly and a team of agency scientists said in an interview.

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