2,000 travelers stranded in Colo. by avalanche danger on I-70 | SummitDaily.com

2,000 travelers stranded in Colo. by avalanche danger on I-70

Summit Daily/Eric Drummond

DENVER ” More than 2,000 travelers remained stranded at Red Cross shelters in the Colorado high country on Monday as the threat of avalanches kept more than 60 miles of Interstate 70 closed west of Denver.

There was no immediate word on when the busy thoroughfare would reopen. In Summit County, multiple shelters set up in schools are being used around the Silverthorne, Frisco and Breckenridge areas.

“I can’t even venture a guess right now,” said Rod Mead, a spokesman for the Colorado Department of Transportation.

High winds and blowing snow forced CDOT to close the highway overnight. Road conditions improved by Monday morning, but deep snow had drifted into more than two dozen narrow ravines in the mountainsides ” known as avalanche chutes ” raising the danger of potentially deadly snow slides cascading onto the highway.

Specialized crews were trying to bring the snow down while the highway was closed by detonating low-power explosives, Mead said.

Red Cross spokeswoman Melinda Epp said the agency opened seven shelters in schools and recreation centers. Epp said most of the 2,000-plus travelers who stayed in them overnight remained there Monday morning.

CDOT closed several other highways around the state on Sunday as snow and gusts up to 65 mph reduced visibility to near zero.

Westbound I-70, the main route between Denver and many of the state’s major ski resorts, was closed from about 10 miles west of Denver to Vail, a distance of about 75 miles.

Eastbound lanes were closed from Vail to Georgetown, about 60 miles.

P.J. Bailey, 24, left Breckenridge to head home to Denver around 1 p.m. Sunday, but nearly four hours later, she was no farther than Georgetown.

“I was told it would get better, but a mile east of Georgetown, there were whiteout conditions. You couldn’t even see the front of your car,” she said. She pulled onto a shoulder for about 15 minutes but finally decided to head back to Georgetown for the night after watching ambulances drive past.

She was searching for a hotel room Sunday evening. The Super 8 Motel was already sold out.

“You should see this town. There’s people stopped everywhere,” she said.

Hunter Miller left his home in Grand Junction around 10:15 a.m. with tickets for a Denver Nuggets game Sunday night, but got caught in stop-and-go ski traffic and snow around Vail Pass. It took about five hours to go the 52 miles between Vail and Georgetown, he said.

He and his wife decided to spend the night in Georgetown.

“The weather was so bad, and I’d been in the car so long,” said Miller, 25. “I didn’t want to drive any more. I didn’t want to risk it.”

U.S. 40 over Berthoud Pass, U.S. 6 over Loveland Pass and U.S. 550 over Red Mountain Pass remained closed Monday.

Nearby Steamboat Ski Resort reported 17 inches of fresh snow Sunday.

Highways leading to Wyoming were closed for several hours due to adverse weather in Wyoming before reopening.

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