CDOT warns of major delays, road closures throughout weekend
FRISCO — The Colorado Department of Transportation is urging anyone planning on making their way to or from the mountains this weekend to come prepared and drive with caution as a major snowstorm is expected to impact travel.
The storm is expected to drop a considerable amount of precipitation around the state through Friday, with the National Weather Service forecasting mountain snow totals between 1 and 2 feet including accumulations of 10-18 inches from Vail Pass to the Eisenhower/Johnson Memorial Tunnels. Strong winds also are expected along the mountain corridor, which could lead to blowing and drifting snow in certain areas.
With potentially treacherous conditions on the roads, travelers should be prepared for delays and closures. CDOT performed successful mitigation work at Loveland Pass and just west of the Eisenhower Tunnel on Thursday, but more work will be necessary throughout the weekend to keep up with conditions.
There will be extended closures Friday morning on mountain highways in order for crews to safely conduct mitigation work, according to CDOT. And because of the expected severity of the storm, avalanche control operations could close down roads at any time during the weekend.
“There’s a good chance we’ll have closures later in the day (Friday) and throughout the weekend because of the conditions,” said Elise Thatcher, CDOT’s communications manager in the area. “We’re just making sure the roads are safe. There’s another storm coming in on Sunday, so we have to be proactive about mitigation.”
CDOT typically isn’t able to give prior notice of when and where mitigation work will take place specifically due to safety concerns, though closures are expected to affect I-70 and several other highways in the area. One closure already has been announced: a one-to-four hour closure beginning at 7 a.m. on Vail Pass. Thatcher also noted that if any mitigation work moves forward on I-70 between Frisco and Copper Mountain, residents might notice “powder clouds,” and she said concerned parties should refrain from calling 911.
Some drivers will be looking for alternative routes to avoid closures, but CDOT is warning that detours onto Colorado Highway 9 and U.S. Highway 285 could be dangerous as well because of significant snowfall and wind.
While the allure of a fresh powder day will certainly be a big enough draw to get some people behind the wheel, CDOT is asking motorists to think twice before hitting the road.
• Forecast and recent weather stories: summitdaily.com/news/weather.
• Storm warnings and advisories: wrh.noaa.gov
• Summit County ski area forecasts: opensnow.com/region/summitcounty
• Road conditions, closures and traffic cameras: cotrip.org.
• Travel information by phone: 511 (in Colorado) or 303-639-1111.
• Sign up for CDOT alerts: codot.gov/topcontent/travel-alerts-system/for-general-public.
• Avalanche danger and conditions: avalanche.state.co.us.
• Flight information: flightview.com/traveltools.
“It’s going to be an extremely challenging day,” Thatcher said. “We don’t use that language lightly here. People driving should prepare for closures to last several hours, and people who run into closures should turn around and go back to where conditions are safe.
“We’re trying to hammer home that it’s not a day you want to be on I-70, and because we can’t offer detours because the conditions are so challenging, we’re recommending that people not travel. … We get it. People want to come up and ski. But spending six hours in your car and potentially getting turned around anyway doesn’t make for a great ski day.”
Those willing to brave the conditions should make sure to prepare before they leave, including ensuring their tires comply with passenger traction laws that likely will be in effect throughout the weekend. Motorists should also plan for long waits in their vehicle and should pack whatever might be needed to pass the time, along with an emergency kit complete with a survival blanket, water, food, flares, a flashlight and other essentials.
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