Winter storm, accidents shut down Interstate 70 on Saturday
December 23, 2017
UPDATE 11:35 p.m. (final): CDOT reports that I70 eastbound is moving. Staged releases have started at Vail pass and Silverthorne. Westbound is still closed, but CDOT anticipates opening in the next half hour. Eisenhower Tunnel is now fully operational.
UPDATE 10:43 p.m.: CDOT is reporting that power has been restored to Eisenhower tunnel, and communications are coming back up. Weather is starting to clear, and CDOT is looking to start staged releases on parts of I70 but there is no estimated time of opening at the moment. Plows will be escorted by CSP as they clear the highway. Visibility is still very poor east of the tunnel. I70 is still closed westbound at exits 259 (Morrison), 248 (Beaver Brook), and 232 (Empire Junction) and eastbound at 176 (Vail) and 205 (Silverthorne). Updates as this story develops.
UPDATE 9:54 p.m.: Colorado State Patrol reported that the Eisenhower Tunnel has been without power since around 4 or 5 p.m. Highway lights and digital signage are out in the area. CDOT said that electricians are working on restoring power to the tunnel and lighting, but there is no estimated time of opening for the tunnel or the various closures along I-70, which remains closed east of Silverthorne and west of Morrison due to multiple crashes. Wind is causing zero visibility east of the tunnel. CDOT is hoping weather subsides soon and plows will be able to get on top of the snow. Vail Police Department is reporting a shelter open for stranded motorists at 75 S. Frontage Rd. in Vail. CSP is handling CDOT dispatch. Updates as this story develops.
The first real snow of the season created havoc for motorists on I-70 for most of the afternoon and evening Saturday. The highway shut down several times throughout the afternoon, and is currently shut down both ways between exit 232 near Empire to exit 180 in East Vail as multiple accidents have triggered a safety closure.
A major accident also closed I-70 both ways at Beaver Brook near mile marker 248, and an extended delay is expected.
Colorado State Patrol Public Information Officer Gary Cutler said the safety closure is trying to prevent major accidents like the one at Beaver Brook. "You have some folks who don't have the right equipment like chains or snow tires, they wind up spinning out and crashing. The road needs to be cleared and plowed before we can be sure it's okay to open again."
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On the safety closure, CDOT's Twitter account posted: "The purpose of a safety closure is to help protect motorists from an area where we've seen multiple spin outs and crashes."
As of 6:38 p.m. CDOT has not provided a timetable for opening I-70 in the mountain corridor stretch nor for the accident at Beaver Brook. Traction laws are in effect between Vail and Copper Mountain, as well as between Silverthorne and Georgetown.
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