Glenwood Springs car dealer on mudslides: ‘All those trees are ripped to shreds’ |

Glenwood Springs car dealer on mudslides: ‘All those trees are ripped to shreds’

Amtrak expected delays for several hours but hopes to be resolved soon, spokesperson says

Workers from the Audi dealership in Glenwood Springs look across the Colorado River at a mudslide pouring into the water on Tuesday morning.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

On Monday afternoon, Red Mountain across the Colorado River from the Glenwood Springs Audi Dealership was “perfectly green, across the board,” dealership Service Director Christopher Smith said.

By late Tuesday morning, some of that landscape and topography had changed as major mudslides continued to flow down Red Mountain. The debris also stranded a passing freight train carrying mixed commodities for what’s now turned into hours.

Union Pacific spokesperson Mike Jaixen said the train has been stranded on the track since about 6:50 a.m. Tuesday. The train became mobile and moved around 2 p.m., according to the city.

The city said the debris flows are being caused by heavy snowpack, rising temperatures and an ensuing abnormal runoff. There are no reports of injuries.

Crews work on clearing up a mudslides at Red Mountain in Glenwood Springs on Tuesday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

Smith took a break from selling cars and joined a couple of his colleagues beside the river as they gazed at the stranded train and contractor crews trying to clear the debris.

“Now there’s all that mud on the side of the mountain,” Smith said. “All those trees are ripped to shreds.”

Water and mud flows out of a drain culvert at Red Mountain in Glenwood Springs on Tuesday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

Smith, originally from Denver, said the slides have made for a pretty unique work day.

“This is all new to me,” he said. “We don’t get mudslides down there.”

What else are Glenwood Springs debris flows affecting?

Train delays

While a train was still halted on the tracks, an Amtrak passenger train spokesperson told the Post Independent that they initially expected delays for hours.

With a station in Glenwood Springs, Amtrak spokesperson Marc Magliari said the delays should soon be resolved and that the Union Pacific Railroad is currently getting the rail cleared.

“I’m told we’ll be underway pretty quickly,” he said.

“The delay could be longer but it’s not turning out to be as long as thought.”

Silt shuts off river intake

In a precautionary move, the town of Silt has shut off its river intake valve. Silt is the first Garfield County town downriver from Glenwood Springs that pulls from the Colorado River to support its water supply.

Silt Public Works Director Trey Fonner told the Post Independent that mudslides in Glenwood Springs have increased the measure of debris found in the Colorado River. The turbidity, as it is called, is measured by Nephelometric Turbidity Units (NTU).

Mud from debris flows in Glenwood Springs runs into the Colorado River.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

Fonner said before the Tuesday mudslides in Glenwood Springs, the turbidity levels of the Colorado River near Silt were between 40-50 NTUs. That has now sprung to about 180 NTUs, Fonner said. A U.S. Geological Survey turbidity monitoring station nearby shows as much as 270 NTUs.

“We’re seeing much higher turbidity and we’ve shut the river intake off at the moment and we’re running on our alluvial wells,” Fonner said.

The alluvial wells are right next to the river and help filter the water, Fonner said. As to when Silt will engage the intake valve is still unknown.

“We hope we can let our wells do all the work and be able to turn the intake on once the slide stops and most of the debris has passed us,” Fonner said. “It all depends on mother nature and when she wants to quit sliding down the hillside.

“There’s no real good timeline you could give.”

Post Independent western Garfield County reporter and Assistant Editor Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or

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