Series of rockslides close Colorado Highway 82 near Aspen for hours July 11 |

Series of rockslides close Colorado Highway 82 near Aspen for hours July 11

Jason Auslander
The Aspen Times

Heavy rain from Tuesday’s late-afternoon thunderstorms caused several rockslides around Shale Bluffs that closed upvalley traffic lanes on Colorado Highway 82 for more than three hours, an official said.

Alex Burchetta, a commander with the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, said he was driving in the downvalley lanes through Shale Bluffs about 6:05 p.m. when he noticed significant amounts of water coming down the bluffs and onto the highway.

He said he turned around at Brush Creek Road and returned to Shale Bluffs to make sure it was safe, arriving just in time to witness six rockslides, large and small, come down onto the highway. The largest was about 75 feet long, 4 to 5 feet deep in sections, and ran across both upvalley traffic lanes, he said.

“There was a tremendous amount of rock and water coming off that hillside,” Burchetta said. “The water was probably 6 inches deep.”

No cars or people were caught in the debris, which mainly included the smaller, shale-type rock that gives the area near the Aspen airport its name, he said. No large boulders came down, he said.

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Upvalley traffic into Aspen was diverted to Brush Creek Road and Owl Creek Road, Burchetta said. Downvalley lanes remained open.

Colorado Department of Transportation officials requested help clearing the road from the Snowmass Village, Pitkin County and the city of Aspen because crews were already dealing with another rockslide elsewhere, he said.

The highway reopened just before 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to a county alert.

After no rain in 33 days in the Aspen area, that streak ended Monday with an afternoon downpour, and a series of heavy rains Tuesday, including a round of small hail, hit the upper valley.

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