Snow’s not done yet: Another spring storm headed toward Vail area
Vail Pass, Glenwood Canyon hit as more winter weather descends
EDWARDS — And it’s not over yet.
The storm that blew through the Central Rockies began to clear Tuesday afternoon, just in time for a smaller storm to show up Wednesday and Thursday.
Heavy, wet snow hammered the mountains Monday evening, and Vail Pass closed numerous times Monday and Tuesday.
‘We’re in the Rockies’
As spring storms go, it was big but not exactly a natural disaster.
“It’s not record breaking. We are in the Rockies. It’s not unusual to get snow this time of year,” said Ben Moyer, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.
The rest of the week will be colder than normal, Moyer said.
The good news about the storm is that Colorado’s overall snowpack is now 190% of normal, Moyer said. The bad news is that while Vail received 281 inches of snow this winter, Aspen had 396 inches, the National Weather Service said.
Everywhere was a mess
Tuesday morning was a mess everywhere. Bob Wilson, CDOT’s statewide communications manager, was fielding media calls while stuck in his house in Denver where the power had been off for 12 hours.
Besides falling power lines and tree branches in several areas, huge boulders also fell in Glenwood Canyon, closing Interstate 70 at about 7 a.m. Tuesday.
No reports of injuries or property damage so far from that Glenwood Canyon rock slide, Wilson said.
The eastbound lane was cleared by late morning Tuesday. The westbound lane, where most of the rocks landed, was open in one lane by mid-afternoon Tuesday. Some of those rocks were the size of an SUV, CDOT’s Lisa Schwantes said during a conference call.
No vehicles were involved and no one was injured.
“We’re grateful for that,” Schwantes said.
There was no word on how long it would take for crews to reopen the highway, Wilson said.
“Sometimes we can clear a rock fall in a few hours, sometimes it can be 24 hours or more. We’re just beginning to get our arms around it,” Wilson said Tuesday.
CDOT crews have to close the highway to perform what they call “downsizing” the rocks, Schwantes said. That means heavy equipment will move the SUV-sized rocks, then they’ll be drilled and blasted to reduce them from something the size of an SUV to something smaller, like a Toyota Tercel.
It’s in an active rockslide area, said CDOT’s geohazards program manager Ty Ortiz.
Freezing and thawing cycles during the spring breaks the rock away from its face, Ortiz said.
It could be worse. You could have been trying to drive over Red Mountain Pass and the Million Dollar Highway. The area around Ouray was hit with 20 inches, according to National Weather Service data.
“We have numerous closures, crashes and other incidents,” said Trooper Josh Lewis, public information officer with the Colorado State Patrol.
Snowplowing efforts are a prime example of how sometimes the very people who need a service hinder its delivery.