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Avalanche closes I-70 between Copper Mountain and Vail, one tow truck caught in slide

The driver of the truck is OK, authorities said
Posted at 3:22 AM, Mar 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-07 17:43:32-05

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. — An avalanche came down near the Vail Pass summit, trapping a tow truck driver and closing Interstate 70 in both directions between Copper Mountain and Vail.

The driver of the tow truck was OK, according to a tweet from Colorado State Patrol.

The slide covered all westbound lanes of I-70 about three miles west of the Vail Pass summit. The pass will remain closed through at least mid-morning, CSP said. An emergency shelter for stranded drivers was set up in Vail. CDOT said I-70 could reopen at Vail and Copper Mountain around 3:30 p.m.

There was both a natural slide that occurred around 1:30 a.m., which caught the tow truck. Avalanche mitigation teams were brought in after the highway was shut down and brought down two more slides in an area called "The Narrows." The latter two avalanches brought down another 15 feet of snow -- primarily in the westbound lanes. One of the slide paths in the area was 100 feet wide, CDOT said.

U.S. 24 reopened in both directions between I-70 and Highway 91 just before 3 p.m. after it was closed for about five hours. And northbound Highway 91 opened from Leadville to Copper Mountain around the same time after it was closed since Thursday morning due to several avalanches over Fremont Pass.

MORE: Snowstorm creates 'historic' avalanche conditions in Colo. mountains; ski areas and highways closed

"Road conditions for most of the available detours is bad and getting worse," CDOT tweeted at 11:25 a.m.

Interstate 70 reopened between Silverthorne and Empire junction at 12:40 p.m. after it was closed for about three hours in the area for avalanche mitigation.

CDOT said at 2:15 p.m. that I-70 was open in both directions between Denver and Frisco. Westbound I-70 remains closed between Frisco and Vail and eastbound between Vail and Copper Mountain. Vail Pass is expected to be closed into the early evening, CDOT said.

Shortly after 3:15 p.m., CDOT said it hoped to have I-70 open between Copper Mountain and Vail in the next 1 or 2 hours.

U.S. Highway 550 will remain closed over Red Mountain Pass through the weekend for avalanche mitigation and cleanup after several large slides came down over the past week.

Loveland Pass was also closed shortly before midnight due to adverse conditions. Arapahoe Basin will not open Thursday because of conditions along Loveland Pass and U.S. Highway 6. CDOT said Loveland Pass will likely be closed into Friday.

The slide near Copper comes just days after an avalanche covered vehiclestraveling on I-70 between Frisco and Copper Mountain.

This is a developing story. Stay with Denver7 for updates.