Spring thunderstorm stirs up havoc | VailDaily.com
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Spring thunderstorm stirs up havoc

Christine Ina Casillas
The Eagle River nearly overflows its banks Friday at Dowd Junction, north of Minturn. Authorities are encouraging extreme caution this weekend on local rivers and streams.
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Several mudslides, small fires and high water levels in the Eagle River kept local law-enforcement agencies busy Friday.

On Colorado Highway 131 north of Wolcott, several mudslides more than a foot deep covered the road, causing some delays, said Kim Andree, public information officer for the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.

“We’re encouraging people not to travel that road, but it’s not closed,” Andree said Friday afternoon. “If you are on that road, enter at your own risk.”

Traffic was backed up for miles along U.S. Highway 6 near Wolcott because of multiple accidents, thanks to a gush of rain that caused Interstate 70 to close briefly until the accidents cleared, Andree said.

The large amounts of water on the roads were carrying caused some travelers to lose control of their cars and hydroplane, Andree said.

“The whole highway was closed,” Andree said.

Hydroplane

At first, one traveler skidded along a portion of the interstate that sometimes can “hold large amounts of water,” slamming into the side of the road, she said. Only one side of the interstate was closed at the time.

An ambulance at the scene then was hit by an oncoming car that slipped on the wet road along that bend, she said.

“Hydroplaning is an issue with all this rain,” she said. “We’re excited about all of this water, but … .”

“We’re seeing a lot of lighting strikes today,” she added.

Another cold front is expected this weekend, with more rain and thunderstorms to follow, according to a forecast issued by the National Weather Service.

“Be careful on the river’

The Eagle River has been at near-record levels for several days, and with another storm brewing, Andree says people need to follow common sense.

“Let’s be careful on the river,” Andree said, warning residents of the pending dangers that could follow. “The water is expected to be higher tomorrow. We just want to make sure that the people trying to navigate the river are extra careful of the water. It would be ideal to avoid the use of the river until it recedes, unless you’re extremely experienced. But even then, it’s not safe.”

A peak in the height of the river is expected Sunday, thanks to the cool front, she said.

“The cold front should slow any of the runoff and water coming down the river,” she said, “which will be fortunate.”

Fears of flooding

An increase in the water level has some homeowners fearful of flooding near their homes, she said.

Sandbags are being stockpiled at area public safety agencies for anyone who needs them, she said.

Vail has established three locations for free distribution of sand material and empty bags for residents and businesses who wish to safeguard their property from high water.

People can pick up the materials from the Vail Police Department at Stephens Park in West Vail, the Vail Police Department parking lot, east of the municipal building, and the parking lot at the exit 180 interchange in East Vail.

Saturation levels, snowmelt and warming trends also are being monitored. Around 5 p.m., the sun appeared in Eagle, Andree said.

Vail town officials say the water levels experienced this week are higher than they’ve been in about eight to 10 years.

Free sandbags

Vail has established three locations for free distribution of sandbags and empty bags for residents and business owners who wish to protect their property from high water. The locations are:

– Stephens Park in West Vail.

– The Vail Police Department parking lot, east of the Municipal Building.

– The parking lot at the exit 180 interchange in East Vail.

Christine Ina Casillas can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607 or at ccasillas@vaildaily.com.


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