A gaping sinkhole on Colorado Highway 133, huge runoff, and there’s more to come; plenty of snow still up high in the Rocky Mountains

Shannon Mullane
The Colorado Sun
What started with a small sinkhole and a lane closure on Colorado 133 over McClure Pass was worsened by flooding from nearby Bear Creek, causing the road to be closed near Somerset since May 2, 2023.
Colorado Department of Transportation/Courtesy photo

Floods, swollen rivers, road closures — Colorado’s spring runoff season is in full swing, and much of the snow in the state’s mountains hasn’t melted yet.

Colorado saw higher-than-average snowfall build up on the Western Slope this year, a boon for irrigators and other water users who rely on the Colorado River Basin which spans Colorado, tribal lands, six Western states, and parts of Mexico. But the snowmelt, with the help of recent weather, is leading to high runoff, and its adverse impacts are popping up around the state like a game of whack-a-mole.

Beyond monitoring for mudslides and rockfalls loosened by rain and high runoff, the Colorado Department of Transportation is also watching bridges and roads for possible closures. 

“I’m seeing higher flows in almost every single drainage that we have over here (in western Colorado) than what we’ve seen probably in at least four or five years, if not longer,” said Julie Constan, a CDOT regional director. “We had such a heavy snowpack across the entire western portion of the state, so that’s causing all of the creeks to definitely be running higher than what we’re used to seeing.”

On the Front Range and Eastern Plains, 10 days of rain in May helped with the state’s continuing recovery from drought over the past year. The amount of the state experiencing drought conditions has dropped from 93% a year ago to just 11% today.

CDOT is working to repair a gaping sinkhole that appeared on Colorado 133 near Paonia. Rushing spring runoff overwhelmed a culvert under the highway and caused enough erosion to collapse a section of the road that is roughly 20 to 30 feet wide, Constan said.

For the full story, visit The Colorado Sun here.

Shannon Mullane writes about Western water issues for The Colorado Suna reader-supported news organization dedicated to covering the people, places and policies that matter in Colorado. Read more, sign up for free newsletters and subscribe at

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