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I-70 westbound reopens at No Name following Saturday afternoon rockslide

A rockslide closed I-70 westbound near the No Name rest area for over three hours Saturday afternoon. 

CDOT Regional Communications Manager Lisa Schwantes said she was notified of the incident, just east of Glenwood Springs at mile marker 119, around 2:15 p.m.

Westbound traffic was being stopped at Dotsero as maintenance crews cleared rocks and debris from the roadway.       

No serious injuries were reported as a result of Saturday’s rockslide according to Schwantes. However, a semi-truck required towing and rocks scattered along the interstate were large enough to require a front-end loader, Schwantes said.

I-70 westbound reopened at around 5:20 p.m.

In the immediate area of the rockslide, I-70 westbound was limited to one lane and CDOT urged motorists to use caution.

Saturday’s rockslide was the first of the season to cause an interstate closure, Schwantes said.

Fierce winter storm heading for Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Wintry weather is about to make a comeback to the high plains and Rocky Mountains.

Forecasters expect heavy snow and strong winds across much of eastern Wyoming and western Nebraska starting Wednesday night and continuing through Thursday.

They predict a nasty mix for driving — at least a few inches (centimeters) of snow along with ice and gusts over 40 mph (60 kph).

The National Weather Service has issued blizzard warnings for all of southeast Wyoming and the western third of Nebraska.

Forecasters expect a foot (30 centimeters) of snow or more in the mountains of northern Colorado and a wintry mix elsewhere in the three-state region.

The storm will let up Friday but temperatures will remain below freezing until the weekend.

Glenwood Springs’ weekend weather report

Glenwood Springs can expect warmer temperatures, a few clouds and a slight chance of precipitation over the weekend.

According to Senior Meteorologist Tom Renwick with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, Saturday’s forecast calls for a high temperature of 51 degrees and a low of 35 degrees for the Glenwood Springs area.

“There is going to be some lingering moisture around,” Renwick said of Saturday morning.

Renwick said the latest weather models were indicating a 45% chance of rain between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. Saturday before dissipating shortly thereafter.

“As quickly as about 10 a.m. (the chance of rain) drops down to 20%,” Renwick said.

According to Renwick, Saturday’s forecast called for mostly cloudy skies in the morning as well as partly cloudy skies during the afternoon and evening hours.

Heading into Sunday, Renwick anticipated less cloud cover and little to no chance of precipitation for the Glenwood Springs area.

The forecast called for a high of 55 degrees and a low of 30 degrees on Sunday.

mabennett@postindependent.com

Another warm weekend ahead for Glenwood Springs

Glenwood Springs residents can expect mostly sunshine, and temperatures potentially reaching the 60s over the weekend.

Friday will see mostly sunshine, with a low-pressure system moving in over the weekend.

“We’ll see a few more clouds Friday night and Saturday, but the warm southwest flow will also increase our temperatures, so the high on Saturday looks to be 60,” National Weather Service technician Dan Cuevas said.

Precipitation below 8,000 feet elevation will likely be rain, Cuevas said.

Saturday night could see some showers, but rain is more likely on Sunday with a 60 percent chance of measurable precipitation, and a high of 55.

“There’s not a lot of cold air associated with this system,” Cuevas said.

Monday is predicted to see a return of sunshine, again with highs in 50s, before more rain is forecasted for Tuesday and Wednesday.

“Any chance of snow would come overnight, when it’s a little cooler,” Cuevas said, but the low temperatures are expected to be around 30 degrees.

“There could be a little bit of snow mixed in, but certainly not looking at any accumulation,” Cuevas said.

The mountains above 8,000 feet could see 3 to 6 inches of snow in the weekend storm, Cuevas said.

tphippen@postindependent.com

As winter turns to spring, pothole repairs begin in Glenwood Springs

Glenwood Springs’ sporadic snowfall and fluctuating high and low temperatures this winter have made pothole repairs challenging. 

“They are very hard to fix properly in the wintertime,” said Matthew Langhorst, Glenwood Springs director of public works. “With most of those potholes being filled with either water or ice and the asphalt around it being extremely cold, it makes repairing them more time consuming.”

According to Langhorst, potholes form in the city’s streets when water finds its way into cracks or holes, freezes and then thaws out. 

“The freeze-thaw cycle is the main cause of the asphalt popping, which causes potholes,” Langhorst said. 

Traffic contributes as well — 14,000 vehicles travel Midland Avenue daily. Nearly 5,000 vehicles use Blake Avenue on a daily basis, which makes those roadways particularly difficult to maintain. 

If funding comes together, Langhorst said the city will mill and overlay Midland Avenue between 27th and Eighth Street ahead of South Midland’s reconstruction that is likely to begin later this year.

The South Midland reconstruction project, for which the city received a $7 million Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant, will replace the section of roadway immediately south of the Midland and 27th Street roundabout to just past the Four Mile intersection. 

“The issue is, they don’t have the resources and we’re spending money on other things. They can only fix so much with what they have,” Councilor Tony Hershey said. “It’s just a matter of priorities — that’s what it has always been.”

The city has approximately $5.76 million in the 2020 budget for street and infrastructure repairs and $13.5 million designated for South Midland’s design and reconstruction. 

The city released its 2020-2025 Strategic Vision on Friday, which listed the reconstruction of South Midland, Cedar Crest and Red Mountain’s streets and utilities as a “high” priority. 

Improvements to Blake Avenue earned a “medium” ranking in the strategic vision document. 

Solomon Stevens shovels asphalt mix from the pothole trailer while filling holes with other city crewmen near the Yampah Vapor Caves.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
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“All of the streets are a priority,” Councilor Paula Stepp said. “I just want to make sure that’s on the priority list every year.”

Langhorst said crews were not only repairing potholes but also trying to correct any drainage issues that would prevent water from leaving roadways.

Additionally, the city’s “pothole trailer” has performed preventative maintenance and repairs throughout Glenwood Springs Langhorst explained. 

“Just replacing the asphalt is not always the fix,” Langhorst said. “A lot of our roadways have improper base material holding them up and have undersized or non-existent drainage systems.”

mabennett@postindependent.com

Glenwood Canyon lane closures to begin Monday

The Colorado Department of Transportation will begin work on Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon Monday, with the anticipated closure of westbound lanes expected to begin in late March.

The 8-month project will start slow, with single-lane closures starting at Grizzly Creek beginning next week. The project is expected to be completed in October.

The construction project includes new pavement, resurfacing with polyester concrete overlay, replacement of bridge joints and bearings, and new pavement markings on both eastbound and westbound lanes.

Lane closures will expand, shutting down the entire westbound direction and shifting traffic in a head-to-head configuration on the eastbound lanes starting later in March.

The resurfacing is the most important part of the project, according to a CDOT news release, because it is expected to reduce the need for future repairs.

“During the early outreach last fall, we saw good participation. Most of the locals we spoke with said they understand how needed and important this project is,” said Josh Cullen, CDOT project engineer.

“Now that the project construction is beginning, it’s exciting to know that we are getting closer to seeing the completion of this quadrant in the Glenwood Canyon,” he said.

Crews will begin the project with single-lane closures near the Grizzly Creek Rest Area at milepost 121 eastbound and at milepost 127.5 westbound for crews to mobilize equipment.

The project also includes improvements to access ramps to the bike path.

Drivers should expect lane closures and delays throughout the project, according to the news release.

For updates on the project, CDOT has set up a hotline for calls and texts at 970-618-5379.

To sign up for email updates, contact GlenwoodCanyon2020@gmail.com.

Glenwood’s weekend weather report

This weekend, Glenwood Springs residents can expect mainly sunny skies and warmer temperatures, at least until Sunday.

According to Senior Meteorologist Kris Sanders with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, Friday’s sunshine will be accompanied by high temperatures in the mid 40s and a low temperature of around 23 degrees.

“It’ll actually be above normal [temperatures] for a lot of the area,” Sanders said.

No precipitation is expected Friday, according to Sanders.

Heading into Saturday, residents can anticipate more sunshine and slightly warmer temperatures with a high of 44 and a low of 30 degrees.

“It looks like pretty dry conditions,” Sanders said of Saturday’s forecast. “Early Sunday morning we could have some isolated to scattered snow showers developing.”

Current models projected a few inches of snow falling Sunday with the possibility of precipitation extending into Monday in Glenwood Springs.

Sunday had a projected high near 46 and a low of 28 degrees.

“It’s not looking like a huge storm by any means, but definitely impactful,” Sanders said.

mabennett@postindependent.com

Snow squall blasts Roaring Fork Valley Monday morning ahead of winter storm, causes treacherous conditions and travel delays

An intense wind ahead of the next winter storm hit the area from Carbondale to Aspen just before 8 a.m. Monday morning, setting off a series of issues for travelers and those trying to make their way to the Aspen ski areas.

The National Weather Service office in Grand Junction sent out a snow squall warning about 8:10 a.m. that ran until 8:45 a.m. for much of eastern Garfield and Pitkin counties. The squall rolled through the Carbondale and Basalt areas about 7:30-7:45 a.m., causing whiteout conditions as Roaring Fork Schools were about to start for the day.

The storm also interrupted bus service to Snowmass Village going up and down Brush Creek Road from the park and ride for a short time (it resumed about 9:15 a.m.) and also delayed the open of Aspen Mountain and Buttermilk/Tiehack.

The Colorado Department of Transportation and State Patrol closed eastbound Interstate 70 over Vail Pass for a couple of hours, also. The interstate had reopened by about 10:30 a.m.

There were also delays for morning flights arriving and departing from the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport. Travelers were advised to check with their airlines or at aspenairport.com for updates.

“A dangerous snow squall was located near Aspen … moving southeast at 30 mph. … Wind gusts greater than 45 mph,” the warning stated.

The weather service has issued a winter weather advisory for the Elk and Gore mountains until 9 a.m. Tuesday above 9,000 feet, and it included the Aspen and Snowmass area.

Another 4 to 8 inches of snow is expected with this storm and winds gusting up to 45 mph.

Those traveling along Interstate 70 on Monday should expect closures and delays through the day, the Colorado State Patrol said Monday morning.

The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office sent a tweet warning drivers on Highway 82 that conditions could change rapidly during the morning storm. A group of cars was stopped near the Aspen airport and Mountain Rescue Aspen building, the Sheriff’s Office stated.

27th Street roundabout to remain as-is for now

Don’t expect any changes to the new 27th Street roundabout in Glenwood Springs any time soon.

“I think that we should take all of the construction equipment away, allow it to sit for at least six months and then decide.” City Engineer Terri Partch said at Tuesday’s city council meeting.

The city’s engineering department was not seeking council direction concerning Glenwood’s newest roundabout. Instead, Partch explained the design process and possible ramifications of any alternatives.

“I think that we really should try it for a little while,” Partch said.

The idea of a roundabout at 27th Street was first proposed in early 2016 and last week the city held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the near completion of the entire 27th Street Bridge Project.

In addition to replacing one of the worst-rated bridges in the state, the project also replaced the previous signalized intersection at 27th Street and Grand Avenue with a roundabout.

The new roundabout has a diameter of 98 feet. Had the city made it any larger it would have encroached on the neighboring ANB/Penrose Plaza and Berthod Motors properties.

According to Partch, in the old intersection WB-40 trucks, which include most food and standard beverage delivery trucks, could make all of the necessary movements safely.

WB-67 full-size semi-trucks, however, could not maneuver through the intersection without turning into oncoming traffic or mounting onto the sidewalk.

A similar situation occurs in the roundabout today.

While WB-40 trucks can make it through without issue, WB-67 trucks still have difficulty.

“It can be done,” Partch said. “We can help with traffic control should [a WB-67 truck] really need to be down there. We can assist in getting them through.”

According to Partch, the city tries to prohibit larger vehicles, like full-size semi-trucks from accessing that corridor.

As previously reported, Glenwood Springs Fire Chief Gary Tillotson confirmed that all of the city’s fire trucks could maneuver through the roundabout.

The $10 million-plus construction project also received in excess of $3 million worth of grant funding.

“Let’s see how it works for a while and see how many issues we actually run into out there,” said Mayor Pro Tem Shelley Kaup.

mabennett@postindependent.com

Two dead in avalanche near Vail on Muddy Pass

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center reported on Sunday that the bodies of two timbersledders buried in an an avalanche have been recovered.

The Eagle County Coroner’s Office has identified the victims as Dillon Block, 28, and Cesar Almanza-Hernandez, 30. Both men were from Gypsum.

According to the CAIC’s preliminary report, the avalanche occurred at about 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.

“Three motorized snowbike riders were caught in an avalanche east of Red and White Mountain in Eagle County on Saturday … One rider was partially buried and was able to extricate himself and go for help,” according to the report. “The avalanche carried the other two riders into a gully in the drainage bottom. Avalanche debris piled up deeply and they were fully buried and killed.”

Search and Rescue volunteers recovered the bodies on Sunday afternoon.

According to the report, the avalanche occurred on a northeast-facing slope, below tree line, around 9,800 feet in elevation. It was about 650 feet wide and ran about 120 vertical feet.

“The avalanche initiated in the old snow layers about three feet below the snow surface. It stepped down to a weak layer near the ground, about five feet deep.”

The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office said it received word of the incident at 4:45 p.m. on Saturday. The Sheriff’s Office, Vail Mountain Rescue Group, Eagle County Coroner’s Office, Colorado Avalanche Information Center, United States Forest Service, the Vail Public Safety Communications Center and several local citizens assisted in the search and recovery efforts.

“We are so appreciative for of the volunteers with Vail Mountain Rescue Group who worked on this very tragic incident, our thoughts are with the families and friends of Mr. Block and Mr. Almanza-Hernandez,” Sheriff James Van Beek said.

Vail local Hunter Schleper was in the area Saturday and helped locate the riders. In a Facebook post, Schleper described the incident:

“As our group of 6 were heading back to the trucks, we were notified by a group of riders that a couple of timbersledders were buried in an avalanche,” Schleper posted on Sunday. “We all rushed as quickly as we could to help assist in locating the guys. Between 10 of us, we each dug and dug for hours. The riders were buried so deep that none of our probes could reach them.

“We finally located each of the riders at a depth of around 20 feet. It was clear that there was no chance of survival from early on. Everyone involved in the search executed the quickest recovery we could, but after 5 hours of digging and uncovering the riders, Vail Mountain Rescue finally arrived and we were immediately told to suspend the recovery. They felt it was too late into the evening and we were still in avalanche danger.

“We all made it out of the woods around 9 p.m., hearts heavy. We want to thank our friends and other riders who worked alongside us no questions asked to get the buried riders out. We extend our deepest condolences and sympathies to the families.”

The Sheriff’s Office warned backcountry travelers, especially people recreating on slopes between 30 and 45 degrees, to take the time to analyze snowpack layers and test their stability. The slope angle on the face that slid Saturday was about 37 degrees, according to CAIC’s report.

“Cautious route-finding and conservative decision-making is essential,” the Sheriff’s Office wrote.