Wet, heavy storm tests Eagle County first responders during a busy night on icy roads
No serious injuries reported, but there were plenty of accidents
Wednesday’s snowstorm did more than just put 8 inches of fresh snow on the slopes of Beaver Creek and 6 inches at Vail. The spring storm also kept the valley’s first responders busy well into the evening.
Marc Wentworth is the director of the Vail Public Safety Communications Center. That facility handles emergency dispatch for all valley first responders except the Colorado State Patrol. Wentworth said Wednesday afternoon was “quite busy” for dispatchers, handling numerous calls of drivers sliding off the road.
The call load for mostly minor accidents was heavy enough that the center sent a message to Eagle County Alerts urging people not to drive and suspending other alerts. Wentworth said dispatchers simply didn’t have time to send alerts as quickly as calls were coming in.
The Eagle River Fire Protection District covers the valley from the top of Tennessee Pass to Wolcott. Public information officer Tracy Trulove provided a rundown of that agency’s activity, which included:
- 6 non-injury motor vehicle accidents
- 1 injury accident
- 1 accident with cleanup involved
- A vehicle fire near Minturn
In addition, crews were dispatched, then called back another four times.
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But that was just for part of the valley.
Eagle County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Ashley LaFleur in an email reported that through 6 a.m. Thursday, that office responded to 25 calls related to vehicle accidents, traffic stops and aiding other agencies.
The calls included vehicles sliding off Interstate 70 into the median, closing the highway due to multiple accidents and other incidents.
Eagle County Paramedic Services operates throughout the Eagle River Valley. District public information officer Katie Coakley said ambulance crews responded to “at least 20” multiple-vehicle accidents Wednesday. Much of the action came as late afternoon turned to evening, combining a day of heavy, wet snow, falling temperatures and go-home westbound traffic.
Ryan Gregor of the Eagle-based Greater Eagle Fire Protection District said as soon as the sun set in Red Canyon, I-70 “flash froze,” sending numerous vehicles off the road.
That department provided help to the drivers of 11 cars.
The good news, Gregor said, is there were no apparent serious injuries, although a handful of people were either checked by paramedics or transported.
Gregor said he’s worked for Greater Eagle Fire for about 10 years and has only seen one other storm like the one that hit Wednesday.
Coakley worked from her Gypsum home Wednesday, where locals reported at least 10 inches of snow fell in places. On her Thursday drive to work in Edwards, Coakley said she saw numerous vehicles off the road.
Those interviewed for this story said a number of motorists were driving too fast for the conditions.
“If people realized that, we wouldn’t have these bad crashes, ”Colorado State Patrol Master Trooper Gary Cutler said.
Trulove said by this time of the season, a number of motorists have become used to driving on dry roads and can be surprised when conditions turn bad.
Those conditions persisted through Wednesday into Thursday before sunshine began to melt the previous day’s snow and ice.