I-70 reopens in both directions over Vail Pass | VailDaily.com

I-70 reopens in both directions over Vail Pass

Snow is falling heavily Monday afternoon on Interstate 70 in Dowd Junction near Vail.
Jon Kedrowski |

• 5:36 p.m.: I-70 has reopened in both directions over Vail Pass; chain restrictions are still in effect.

• 5:05 p.m.: I-70 reopens eastbound at Avon.

• 4:30 p.m.: Highway 24 at the I-70 interchange has re-opened in both direction.

• A winter storm has closed Interstate 70 in both directions over Vail Pass.

• Eastbound I-70 is closed beginning at Avon, police said.

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• Westbound I-70 is closed at Georgetown to the tunnel.

• There is an accident on westbound I-70 at Down Junction.

VAIL – It’s wasn’t exactly Snowmageddon, but the winter’s first major storm closed Interstate 70 and stranded motorists between Avon and Georgetown Monday afternoon.

“It’s a crazy day,” said Nate Reid, Trooper with the Colorado State Patrol. “People need to slow down and give each other plenty of room.”

That maximum whack dropped up to four inches of snow on parts of the Vail Valley and Summit County, and caught dozens of motorists unprepared.

Beaver Creek reported eight inches of snow in three hours Monday afternoon.

It’s not like you weren’t warned.

For weeks, the Colorado Department of Transportation and the State Patrol has had flashing signs over Interstate 70 reminding us that winter is coming, and asking us if our tires are in good shape.

“We try,” Reid said. “Sometimes people listen.”

Motorists slide around on roads for a few reasons:

1. Those roads are slick

2. Their tires are not up to the task.

3. All of the above

“We’ll just say that their urgency to get their tires changed out significantly increased Monday,” said Bill Britt with Vail Discount Tire in Eagle-Vail. “Our phones have been going crazy all day.”

Britt has some uncomplicated advice for motorists.

“Look at the calendar. Don’t look outside. It’s November; it’s time to get tires on.”

Britt has been gently reminding his customers for weeks, and again on Saturday, although he said they were slow Saturday.

“It was sunny,” he explained smiling.

When the highway closed, local hotels were swamped by people looking for shelter from the storm. In fact, of the three hotels we called, the very professional and polite front desk staffs were entirely too rushed to chat about the weather.

“Yes sir, people are stopping for a visit,” said one man.

CDOT plowing through the storm

In Eagle and Summit counties, CDOT had 19 maintenance personnel operating 25 pieces of equipment throughout the storm. Plow trucks focused on the I-70 stretch through Straight Creek in Summit County with another five trucks each for the Vail and West Vail corridors.

“We have more plow trucks and drivers gearing up to provide the best customer service we can,” said Jared Morgan, a maintenance patrol supervisor in Summit County. “We’d like to remind motorists to take their time, leave extra room behind our plow trucks and let us clear the way. And please have vehicles well prepared for these winter events—snow tires are a must.”

Clouds returning tomorrow night

This storm will be short-lived, said Dennis Phillips, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

“It’s pretty much the end of unseasonably warm weather,” Phillips said.

The initial front that’s pushing through and has some pretty cold air with it, Phillips explained.

Most of that cold air will settle on the Front Range, but there is enough cold air and moisture to keep snow in the forecast for the rest of the week, Phillips said. Steamboat got some snow. So did Meeker and Aspen.

“Everyone is getting a little shot with this first one,” Phillips said.

Snow is expected to last through Monday night, and turn sunny for Veterans Day, the National Weather Service forecast said. Tuesday night, though, will see the clouds return along with a chance of snow through the rest of the week.

Pretty good prediction

The Farmers’ Almanac winter prediction is not for the winter-weary, but it’s good news for outdoor winter sports enthusiasts.

The 198th edition forecasts that “no region will see prolonged spells of above-normal temperatures.”

The Farmers’ Almanac goes out on a limb by predicting that it’ll get really cold the final week of January and into February, saying temperatures across the country’s Northern Plains could drop to 40 below.

In areas where snowfall averages may be lower this winter, like Colorado’s Central Rockies, the temperatures will be cold enough to support plenty of snow making.

“While we don’t think the winter will be as extreme as last year, we do believe that it’s going to be another one for the record books,” said Farmers’ Almanac editor Peter Geiger.

Sandi Duncan, managing editor with the Farmers’ Almanac, reminds us that they accurately forecast last year’s cold and snow-filled winter.

Still, it’s the first time in its 198-year history that the Farmers’ Almanac added a disclaimer near its winter outlook. When the 2015 edition went to print, the National Oceanic Atmospheric and Administration issued an official El Nino warning.

El Niño, an ocean-atmospheric phenomenon in the tropical Pacific that affects global weather patterns, may still develop this winter, Halpert said. NOAA puts the possibility of El Niño developing at 67 percent by the end of the year.

In other words, it could go either way, sort of like Miley Cyrus on a Saturday night.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

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