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Silly snow amounts slam Vail, Beaver Creek, trigger multiple slides, road snarls

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March 9, 2019, 9:05 am
A traffic jam on I-70 in Dowd Junction earlier this week (DOW photo).

Crazy amounts of snow continue to pound the Vail Valley, with Vail reporting 8 inches overnight, 20 inches in the last three days and 4 feet of new snow in the last week. If you’re keeping track, that’s 290 inches for the season and a 96-inch settled base.

Beaver Creek has seen 9 new overnight, 28 inches in the last three days and 56 in the last week for 273 seasonal inches and a 90-inch settled base.

But all that wet, wonderful snow the last couple of weeks has made for some very dangerous backcountry conditions, with an avalanche warning in effect from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center through 6 a.m., Sunday. Backcountry travel is strongly discouraged.

All the new snow has also made for some very sketchy driving conditions, with an avalanche shutting down U.S. Highway 24 near Red Cliff overnight Friday and avalanches shutting down Vail Pass earlier in the week.

All local highways were back open as of Saturday morning, but the Colorado Department of Transportation is urging caution.

And – this is like a broken record – more snow is in the forecast.

“Saturday morning will offer 5-10 inches of thicker powder at most areas and it looks like the deepest totals might be 10-15 inches at a few spots,” Opensnow.com meteorologist Joel Gratz wrote Saturday morning.

“Snow will end by Saturday morning and we’ll be mostly dry through Monday morning. Then a multi-part storm will bring snow next week. There could be a southern powder day on Tuesday morning, and all mountains could see powder later Wednesday or maybe Thursday.”

CDOT late Saturday announced it will closing portions of I-70 on Sunday to conduct helicopter avalanche operations. Here are the details:

Avalanche mitigation helicopter operations scheduled tomorrow on I-70

Delays expected as several missions scheduled throughout the day

I-70 Joint Operations Area (Dotsero to C-470)– Safety critical helicopter operations will begin tomorrow, Sunday, Mar. 10 in order to perform avalanche mitigation at several slide paths along the I-70 corridor. The areas impacted are as follows:

8:30-9:30 a.m. Mission on Big Marvin slide path on Vail Pass (mile point 186)

11:00-Noon Mission in 10 Mile Canyon (mile point 196 east of Copper Mountain)

1:30-2:00 p.m. Mission on Silver Cloud and Bard Shoulder slide paths in Silver Plume

Due to the dynamic nature of this work it is impossible for CDOT to estimate how long these closures will take place. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center has identified many mountain ranges in western Colorado as being at high risk for avalanche slides. It is very likely that a natural slide could occur and motorists should plan for unexpected closures as well. There is also the possibility of large debris fields with trees and rocks mixed with snow in these slides which can take maintenance operations longer to clear.

Should you encounter an avalanche or powder cloud while driving.

  • Reduce speeds
  • Pull over to shoulder if possible
  • Turn off your vehicle
  • Remain in your car
  • Call 911 and request help
  • Make sure you are prepared with an emergency kit and adequate traction. An emergency kit should include: jumper cables, flares or reflective triangles, ice scraper, car cell phone charger, blanket, map,cat litter or sand for traction, food and water.

TRAVELER INFORMATION

For information on travel conditions and road closures please visit COTRIP.org or call 511. Updates are also available via Twitter @coloradodot and CDOT’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/coloradodot.

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