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Over 100 people trapped on I-70 at Glenwood Canyon following ‘multiple large mudslides’ overnight

Closure of I-70 through Glenwood Canyon expected last through the weekend
mudslides on glenwood canyon july 30 2021.jpg
Posted at 10:14 AM, Jul 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-30 22:44:27-04

GLENWOOD CANYON, Colo. – Over 100 people were trapped on Interstate 70 early Friday morning following “multiple large mudslides” through Glenwood Canyon overnight, according to officials with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT).

CDOT officials said a safety closure between Dotsero and Glenwood Springs and West Rifle and Canyon Creek remains in place after the large mudslides caused by heavy rain on the Grizzly Creek burn scar moved over the area early Thursday evening and continuing through the night.

The safety closure is expected to last through the weekend, CDOT officials said in a news release, due to "significant clean up required after Thursday’s mudslides and debris flows, as well as continued heavy rain in the forecast."

A viewer who contacted Denver7 said about 80 cars were stuck on I-70 in the area between mudslides. The man said his parents, who were headed to Breckenridge from Durango, have been stuck on the highway since Thursday night.

Another viewer who contacted Denver7 said his family had been trapped in a mudslide overnight but could not provide more details.

Reports of vehicles trapped on I-70 at Glenwood Canyon following ‘multiple large mudslides’

A CDOT spokeswoman said they were working to safely evacuate people in the canyon and are working with local agencies. When asked if there were people stuck or trapped in the mudslides, the spokeswoman said that was “not correct.”

When pressed that viewers had contacted Denver7 letting us know they were trapped on the highway, the spokeswoman reiterated her previous statement, saying they were working to safely evacuate everyone on the highway.

Later Friday, a CDOT spokesperson told Denver7 there was damage to the road where the mudslides happened, but did not go into detail.

In a news release, the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office said their deputies, along with the Glenwood Fire and a bus from RFTA headed into the Canyon “to reach the twenty plus individuals that were in the Tunnel.”

“There are still multiple vehicles caught in the canyon,” the news release from the sheriff’s office states, adding CDOT will be busy rescuing those vehicles and their occupants while cleaning up the debris flows.

By early Friday afternoon, CDOT officials said 108 people were either evacuated from Glenwood Canyon or moved to a safer place following the mudslides.

During a news conference, CDOT officials said they had brought personnel from across the state to help patrols in Grand Junction, calling the situation "an all hands on deck response."

They said all but three vehicles were still stranded by Friday afternoon and that approximately 60-75 people were stuck in their vehicles at the Bear Ranch rest area, but those people would be moved east out of the canyon by late afternoon.

Mike Goolsby, the Region 3 director for CDOT, said I-70 would most likely remain closed through the weekend and provided a timeline for reopening by Monday, but said that if the weather "doesn't cooperate and brings more material down, it could be extended past that.”

Approximately ten spots through the canyon experienced debris flow, CDOT officials said, including one place where mud destroyed a wall. Some spots saw mud up to 12 feet deep.

No one was injured during the mudslides, CDOT said, reiterating that traveling to the mountains will be treacherous as the forecast calls for heavy rain this weekend. Most of Colorado is under flash flood watches Friday and Saturday because of heavy rains forecast in multiple waves of rain and thunderstorms over the next 24 hours.

For those still driving through the area despite Flash Flood Warnings now in effect for the high country, current alternate routes include at least a two-hour-long detour.

Westbound traffic can exit at Silverthorne and travel north on Colorado 9 to U.S. 40, then west to Craig. From Craig, take Colorado 13 south to Rifle and back on I-70. Eastbound traffic will need to exit at Rifle and take the same route in the other direction.

Drivers planning to use I-70 or other high-country roads should bring supplies with them in case they need to spend extended time in the car, CDOT said. At the minimum, this can include water, snacks, flashlight, and a blanket.

The American Red Cross of Western Colorado has opened up a shelter for stranded drivers at Glenwood Springs Community Center, 100 Wulfsohn Rd. in Glenwood Springs.

Check on road conditions on CDOT's website here and sign up for traffic alerts here.

Denver7 reporter Pattrik Perez contributed to this report.