Dillon Dam Road remains closed after falling rock hits car, protective netting tears from hill
UPDATE on March 10: The Dillon Dam Road will be closed indefinitely as officials work to repair damage. The roadway is expected to be closed for a minimum of two weeks.
DILLON — The Dillon Dam Road might be closed longer than expected due to heightened rockfall risks caused by major damage to a segment of protective netting in the area.
Snow and rocks began to slide off the hillside near the Dillon Reservoir’s “glory hole” spillway Sunday afternoon, just south of Silverthorne. According to county officials, while rockslides and small avalanches are typical due to changing weather this time of year, the severity of slides this weekend was notable.
“In the early afternoon, we had a bunch of snow slides come down from above the cliff face where we’ve got that protective netting,” said Robert Jacobs, county engineer and road and bridge director. “So we saw the snow and all the rocks coming down yesterday and decided to keep the road closed. As warm as it’s been, obviously it loosened up some of the snowpack and the rocks, as well.”
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Summit County Public Works Director Tom Gosiorowski said a small avalanche covered an entire 50-yard lane of roadway in about a foot of snow, but he noted that falling rocks were the much bigger concern. One man’s car was hit by a falling rock before the road was closed down.
Thomas Zieba, a Dillon Valley resident, was driving in his truck from Dillon to Frisco on the Dam Road on business when a rock careened off the hill and slammed into the hood of his car.
“I thought it was snow,” Zieba recalled. “I didn’t even realize it was a rock, so I just kind of brushed it off and tried to accelerate until I realized the engine was dying. I pulled off the side of the road, walked around, and that’s when I noticed the hood was all dented in and had a big gash in it.”
Zieba wasn’t hurt, and he said he was able to drive off with just minor damage after notifying authorities and giving his truck a few minutes to restart.
“My dad has always told me that I’m lucky in unlucky situations,” Zieba said. “If I have some issues with a car, it’s always been near home. Or if I break down, it’s usually within five or 10 minutes of where I need to be. I’m feeling very lucky.”
But county officials aren’t going to rely on luck moving forward, especially with potentially severe damage to a segment of protective netting on the hillside. In addition to what officials characterized as grapefruit-to-volleyball sized rocks bouncing onto the roadway, a large boulder also slammed into the protective netting — essentially a heavy duty chain-link fence mean to stop rocks from impacting the road — tearing about a 100-foot-long segment of the netting’s top-line anchors from the hillside.
The netting is still in place to some degree, though clearly compromised with the boulder precariously hanging in place.
“Looking at the damage through binoculars is really eye opening — seeing the number of these steel rods that anchor in that rock netting and seeing the number that were pulled out,” said Gosiorowski. “Sections of that rock netting are still very compromised, and that’s the hazard we have the most concern about.”
Gosiorowski said repairs of this kind and magnitude are outside of the county’s capabilities and that his department would be meeting with independent contractors Tuesday morning to come up with a plan of action. He noted that members of the public should expect the road to stay closed until noon Tuesday, though the closure potentially could last much longer.
“The big thing is we know that there are a lot of citizens who enjoy traveling on the road as an alternative to (Interstate 70), and we want to open it as soon as we can,” Gosiorowski said. “At the same time, nobody enjoys getting hit by rocks or boulders. So that’s what we’re thinking about most.”
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