Season’s first storm creates fun, frustration | VailDaily.com

Season’s first storm creates fun, frustration

VAIL — Bill Britt and his wife, Gail, looked at the line out the door of their business, Vail Discount Tire, and didn't have to look at the sky to know it was the season's first big snow.

"Snow makes all the difference in the world," Bill said, as customers lined up to have winter tires mounted.

The Vail Valley was blanketed in several inches of snow Thursday. Minutes after the snow began to fall, the season's first weather-related road closure hit Vail Pass.

Westbound Interstate 70 was closed at 10:30 a.m., about 5 miles east of Vail Thursday morning because of an accident. A jack-knifed semi started the chain of accidents that saw westbound I-70 closed for several hours Thursday afternoon.

One death in Summit County

No injuries were reported in any Eagle County accidents, but Summit County saw one death in weather-related traffic accidents.

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The driver died after driving a Pontiac off the cliffs on Ptarmigan Trail road in Silverthorne, plunging more than 100 feet from the cliffs overlooking the highway. The vehicle rotated in the air and landed on its roof on westbound Interstate 70, according to a report in the Summit Daily News.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation, said Trooper Josh Lewis, a public information officer with the Colorado State Patrol.

The driver was dead at the scene, Lewis said. That closed I-70 in both directions. No other information about the crash was available.

Bent metal and frustration

The worst the Vail Valley saw was some bent metal and frustration. One East Vail resident said it took him 75 minutes to get home from the Vail Village transportation center on the Frontage Road Thursday morning.

About 3:15 p.m. Thursday, eastbound I-70 in East Vail was closed for safety concerns, about the same time eastbound I-70 was closed at Silverthorne for the same reason, said Tracy Trulove, public information with the Colorado Department of Education.

Crashes and spinouts closed both lanes on I-70 at the top of Vail Pass for much of the afternoon. Both lanes on I-70 were closed near Evergreen at around 3:15 p.m. after a pile up that emergency workers said left 20 vehicles tangled up.

Round the clock CDOT

During a winter storm, Colorado Department of Transportation crews work 24-hour operations, typically on rotating 12-hour shifts. That means that during a storm, at least half the crew members on each patrol are out at any given time, some overlapping their shifts to keep coverage consistent, Trulove said.

Under Colorado's Traction Law (Code 15) and Passenger Vehicle Chain Law (Code 16) you could be fined $130 if your vehicle doesn't have proper equipment — adequate tire treads of chains. If your vehicle blocks the roadway, you could be fined more than $650.

In an annual closure, the Colorado Department of Transportation closed Independence Pass for the season at noon Thursday.

Sunny skies ahead

As Thursday's storm passed, the National Weather Service forecast that the chance of snow by Friday was down to 10 percent, with sunny skies with temperatures in the mid 40s by Saturday and through the weekend.

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