Stay vigilant: Travelers, recreationists staying informed on weather is key to I-70 safety plan
Recreation and travel in Glenwood Canyon will be much more hazardous due to the potential rockfall and debris flows originating from destabilized ground, rock and weakened trees burned by the Grizzly Creek Fire last summer.
A closure plan for the Glenwood Springs canyon trails and bike paths, as well as the section of Interstate 70 that runs through the burn-scarred slopes, was presented during a community meeting Tuesday night.
The Colorado Department of Transportation developed a closure plan to protect the traveling public from debris flow where safety closures would be triggered in the event of a flash flood warning, closing I-70 in Glenwood Canyon from Exit 116 (Glenwood Springs) to Exit 133 (Dotsero).
Local law enforcement officers will be stationed at the closure barricades to prevent travelers from entering the burn scar area until CDOT has determined it is safe for the traveling public.
Lisa Stoeffler with the U.S. Forest Service provided more information on best safety practices for travelers in the event they encounter debris flow.
“Always stay in your vehicle, that’s the safety place to be,” Stoeffler said.
“When you’re thinking about recreation and whether it’s safe to recreate in a burned area, I do want to say that burned areas, especially ones that burn relatively hot like Grizzly Creek did, are inherently dangerous.”
Stoeffler said the steep slopes and overhead hazards in the burn area increase the level of risk for injury to both drivers and pedestrians recreating within the canyon.
“Anything that can happen on the interstate can happen in the back country,” Stoeffler said.
“There’s always that risk of debris flows and flash floods as well, as fire weakened trees and rocks starting to move around.”
One of the leading hazards in burned areas are fire-weakened trees coming down, Stoeffler said.
“Tree crowns and large limbs can blow out,” she said. “So please be aware anytime you’re in dense forest or where you have overhead hazards there’s a risk of those trees falling down and they come down silently.”
Hikers and cyclists should stay on the trail as much as possible, as the ground around the trails is likely to be more unstable.
“Stumps and roots burned hot during the fire,” Stoeffler said.
“Though it might not be evident from the surface, the ground underneath can be unstable. You can drop into a stump hole.”
Lisa Langer, Director of Tourism Promotion and Visit Glenwood, provided information on upcoming hospitality training sessions for Glenwood Springs businesses and frontline workers to help keep visitors safe as they recreate and travel through Glenwood Canyon.
“We want them to make sure they’re watching weather reports, they’re tuning into http://www.cotrip.org and we want you as a business or as a frontline worker to please watch for those alerts,” Langer said.
The city and Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association will be providing safety alerts as well, Langer said.
“We just want everyone to be aware that because there are extenuating circumstances following the fire that we will need to know what’s going on,” Langer said. “We can definitely get through this. We’re excited about the summer season.”
Two sessions — one in the morning and the other in the afternoon — are slated for May 18.
Both sessions will provide in-person training to hospitality workers. To register for the training, go to http://www.glenwoodchamber.com/seminars.
Bryana Starbuck, Glenwood Springs city public information officer, said Glenwood Springs residents can lead by example with positivity and preparedness.
“The important thing to remember is that we are such a strong and resilient community,” Starbuck said.
Residents of No Name will also be provided access to their homes during the safety closures, so long as they can provide identification or an updated utility bill as proof of address to local law enforcement manning the closure points.
“Garfield County Sheriff’s office often attends access points, so it’s a good idea to sign up for any alerts they may have,” Starbuck said.
If a safety closure of I-70 in Glenwood Canyon is anticipated to last longer than two hours, CDOT recommends a northern alternate route using Colorado Highway 9, U.S. Highway 40 and Colorado Highway 13.
Motorists coming from the Denver metro area or Interstate 25 can travel westbound on I-70 to Silverthorne, then turn north onto Colorado Highway 9. In Kremmling, travelers should turn onto westbound US Highway 40 toward Steamboat Springs. After reaching Craig, motorists can return south via Colorado Highway 13 toward Rifle. Access to I-70 westbound is at Rifle.
Motorists traveling eastbound from Utah or Grand Junction can reach the Denver Metro area by traveling the route above in reverse.
Reporter Shannon Marvel can be reached at 605-350-8355 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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