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Glenwood Springs businesses weather I-70 closures, brace for every time it rains

"We’ve just got to do the best we can"
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Posted at 7:29 PM, Aug 18, 2021

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. — When it rains in Glenwood Springs, residents and businesses hold their collective breath to see just how much they may be impacted.

The owner Rocky Mountain Pizza Co. said he was praying for rain last year. He even named a pie "smoke jumper" in honor of the brave firefighters that battled the Grizzly Creek Fire.

Now, heavy rain and the threat of a flash flooding means customers might not be able to get to his restaurant.

"It’s a mixed bag because the thing that started this was a fire so we wished for rain, but now we don’t wish for rain," said Greg Lemkau, who has owned the pizza shop for the past three years.

Lemkau said it was difficult to get food deliveries when a slide brought down debris, covering parts of Interstate 70 in 10 feet of mud, resulting in an extended closure of Glenwood Canyon. Colorado Department of Transportation officials partially reopened the highway on Saturday morning, but it remains down to one lane in areas with the heaviest damage.

Mudslides and the threat of flash flooding have led to multiple shutdowns on I-70 over the course of the summer. At times, the weather moved in so fast that drivers were trapped on the highway.

"We just prepare ourselves for the closures and hope that people keep coming out over the other passes," Lemkau said.

On Wednesday afternoon, CDOT shutdown Glenwood Canyon in both directions following a flash flood warning. The National Weather Service and Colorado Department of Transportation had previously warned of heavy rainfall in western Colorado this week that could again lead to flash flooding in Glenwood Canyon and other areas nearby.

“It’s not something I spend a ton of time worrying about because there’s not a lot to be done about it," said Russell Cabe, the manager at Sunlight Ski and Bike Shop.

Cabe said business dropped by about one-third and downtown Glenwood Springs was quiet during the extended I-70 closure. He said he was thankful CDOT officials were able to open the highway as quickly as they did, considering the damage.

"This is all really in the name of safety," said Stacia Sellers, a CDOT spokesperson. "We have been warning about this and we’re going to continue to let motorists know again if there is a flash flood warning that I-70 in Glenwood Canyon will close."