The Vail Valley is taking a deep breath after the big storm | VailDaily.com

The Vail Valley is taking a deep breath after the big storm

While busy, emergency responders say there were no major incidents from weekend storms

This family from California took advantage of an emergency shelter set up Feb. 7 at Vail's town hall. Interstate 70 over Vail Pass was closed overnight due to heavy snowfall.
By the numbers
  • 44 inches: Snowfall at Vail Mountain in the past seven days.
  • 36 inches: Snowfall at Beaver Creek in the past seven days.
  • 21: Eagle County alerts sent out between Feb. 6 and Feb. 10.

EAGLE COUNTY — The Vail Public Safety Communications Center is usually pretty busy, but the past weekend was especially busy.

The center, which handles dispatch duties for all the valley’s police, fire and ambulance services, sends Eagle County alerts via email and text in case of accidents or other incidents. Over the weekend, the center sent out 21 of those alerts, for everything from school closures to road closures and accident alerts.

That’s a busy weekend.

Then the non-emergency phones went down, although dialing 911 still put callers in touch with emergency dispatchers.

Marc Wentworth, the center’s director, added that a number of subscribers received multiple notices that the non-emergency lines were down — apparently due to an interface problem between CenturyLink’s landlines and the town of Vail’s phone system.

Still, emergency crews got where they needed to be.

The Eagle River Fire Protection District runs from the top of Tennessee Pass to Wolcott, but it doesn’t include the town of Vail. Tracy LeClair, the district’s community risk manager and public information officer, said firefighters were busy throughout the weekend. Much of that activity was on Interstate 70 in the usual trouble spots, including Dowd Junction, Wolcott and just west of Wilmore Lake.

Firefighters also responded to a few medical calls, including a call about someone who fell off a roof.

Clear those hydrants

One of the biggest problems with all the snow that’s fallen in the past week is snow-covered fire hydrants and gas meters.

LeClair said the department is launching a push to get hydrants shoveled out this week, something that’s generally up to residents.

In addition to the snow-buried hydrants, LeClair said the snow has covered a lot of gas meters. In some cases, the snow had caused potentially-hazardous leaks.

Police agencies throughout the valley stayed busy, too. Vail Pass was particularly hard hit by the storms. The snow Friday into Saturday required officials to close Vail Pass overnight.

That closure prompted the Salvation Army to open an emergency shelter at Vail’s town hall. That shelter was used by about 10 people.

Wentworth said the length of the pass closure “wasn’t typical” and resulted in a lot of calls to the dispatch center.

“Overnight gets pretty quiet (for dispatchers),” Wentworth said. “On that night, we got a lot of calls.”

On the interstate, the Colorado State Patrol responded to a number of calls along the mountain corridor. Trooper Josh Lewis, a public information officer for the State Patrol, said the Colorado Department of Transportation “does a fantastic job” during storms. But, he added, it’s almost inevitable that drivers will occasionally slide off the road. Those incidents “can really slow things down,” he said.

For much of the weekend, there was heavy, slow-moving traffic, Lewis said. But, he added, there weren’t any major incidents.

Stuck but well-behaved

Vail Police Commander Ryan Kenney also credited transportation officials for providing plenty of information to motorists and others about the potential for slow-moving traffic and road closures.

Kenney added that during any pass closure, there will be some drivers who try to wait out the closure on the road.

“People will want to try to find a different way to the highway or stack up at different on-ramps.”

Vail police try to direct those people to the town’s parking structures. Once parked, people can get out of their cars, walk around and, perhaps, go find a restaurant or lodging for the night.

While Vail police help with interstate closures, the department’s main responsibility is to town residents and guests. That means maintaining access into and out of East Vail.

Kenney said when the Interstate closes, traffic will be routed to the frontage road between Vail’s town center and East Vail. A team at Ford Park checks every vehicle. East Vail residents have placards that allow access to the neighborhoods. Everyone else is directed to the parking structures.

Kenney said there weren’t any major incidents in Vail because of the storm.

“Everyone was very well behaved,” he said. “Everyone kind of knew this is the way it’s going to be for the next couple of days.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com or 970-748-2930.