Storms wreak even further weather havoc on travelers | VailDaily.com

Storms wreak even further weather havoc on travelers

EAGLE COUNTY — Winter is not a personal experience.

Thousands of motorists were detoured and delayed, and hundreds of fliers were stranded Monday when winter weather and traffic accidents clogged local roads and shut down the sky.

It all started around 6:15 a.m. Monday when the driver of a box truck lost control about two miles west of Gypsum. The box truck was carrying empty beer cans.

Moments later, a tanker truck carrying 9,000 gallons of diesel fuel clipped the box truck and the driver also lost control, said Tracy Trulove with the Colorado Department of Transportation.

While the tractor remained upright, the tanker-trailer rolled onto its side and spilled about 2,000 gallons of diesel fuel into the median.

Department of transportation cleanup crews, along with local firefighters and hazmat crews, were on the scene in minutes, containing the spill and making sure it did not seep toward the Eagle River, which runs about 150 yards from the crash site, Trulove said.

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Traffic was delayed and detoured to U.S. Highway 6 between Gypsum and Dotsero until 2:15 p.m. on Monday afternoon.

Icy conditions and freezing temperatures over most of Western Colorado also had our part of the state under an ice storm warning from Gypsum to the Utah border. Several sections of the interstate were closed all the way to the high desert in Mesa County.

Airport adventures

While all that was happening on the interstate, weather delayed or canceled flights into and out of the Eagle County Regional Airport. If you're trying to New York's John F. Kennedy airport, then you might not get out until Wednesday.

Eagle County airport manager Greg Phillips was in a conundrum Monday.

A winter storm dumped snow on his airport, which is fine. We like snow.

On the other hand, flight cancellations originating in larger hub airports made life complicated.

"I expect it's going to be a tough day," Phillips said Monday morning.

Crews are keeping the Eagle County airport runway open, but air travel is a larger, and complex, system, Phillips said. Responding to weather conditions across North America, airlines often decide to cancel flights ahead of time.

"We're seeing a lot more pre-cancellations in the past few years," Phillips said.

Those decisions ripple through the entire system.

"When a big storm happens you'll see them cancel flights in the big hub airports. That affects the whole system, all the way out to us," Phillips said. "More often than not, it's not our weather that does this to us. It's elsewhere in the system."

"It's beyond us. A lot of the northwest has been hit," Phillips said.

Airline flights are filled with humans, of course, all trying to get somewhere.

With airlines packing more people into their planes, flights are generally full.

A canceled flight strands more than 100 passengers, and when other flights are full it makes it difficult to accommodate extra passengers, Phillips explained.

That problem can be compounded in a small-ish airport such as Eagle County's, that has one flight per day to destinations including New York's John F. Kennedy International, Miami or Houston airports.

When a flight is canceled, passengers may have to wait until the next day. Or, in the case of the JFK International flight, the day after that.

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

Colorado Traction Law

The Colorado Department of Transportation implemented Colorado’s traction law between Gypsum and the Utah border Monday.

Under Colorado’s Traction Law, motorists need adequate snow tires, tires with mud/snow designation, or a four-wheel drive vehicle. All tires must have a minimum one-eighth inch tread.

Without proper equipment, you can be fined $130. If your vehicle blocks the roadway, you could be fined more than $650.