During the summer of 2020, wildfires were the main culprits leading to loss of life, destruction of property and road closures in Colorado. This year, the state is weathering flash floods, mudslides, rock slides and wildfires, leading to a rash of road closures over the weekend, including a blaze that caused another Interstate 70 shutdown. Meanwhile, a second body has been recovered in the wake of flooding and slides in Poudre Canyon, but two people are still missing.
The only full closure currently being reported on cotrip, the travel website maintained by the Colorado Department of Transportation, relates to U.S. 50 between Montrose and Gunnison, where extensive weekday shutdowns for major road construction are ongoing — and starting this week, motorists using U.S. 6 in Clear Creek Canyon can expect traffic holds and intermittent lane blockages owing to an extensive paving project that involves shoulder widening and guardrail replacement. Crews are expected to wrap up the project by summer's end.
But another big shutdown is scheduled for next weekend: As part of CDOT's Central 70 Project, westbound I-70 is set to be closed from 10 p.m. Friday, July 30, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 2, for what are dubbed "final paving operations." The shutdown was delayed from earlier this month.
Meanwhile, several unanticipated shutdowns occurred across the highway system this past weekend. All of the closures have now been lifted, but I-70 through Glenwood Canyon was off-limits for a time on both Saturday and Sunday because of flash-flood warnings, with additional, one-day access cutoffs involving mudslides occurring on I-70 between exits 42 and 44 near Palisade, CO 141 outside Naturita, and CO 145 at mile post 94.
That's not all. CO 133 at Chair Mountain Drive was impassable for a time because of a rockslide, and a wildfire sparked a lengthy traffic stop on I-70 between Gypsum and Eagle. These roadways have now been cleared, too.
The cleanup from flooding and mudslides along the Cache la Poudre River not far from Fort Collins includes the grim task of searching for people feared lost amid the environmental havoc. Here's a map of the affected area from the site devoted to the incident:
Last week, the body of one woman was recovered, and on July 24, the Larimer County Sheriff's Office published a recap of efforts to find additional victims. A four-person Larimer County Search and Rescue team, assisted by three dogs and dozens of human volunteers, spent the day working with heavy-equipment operators to "investigate large piles of debris," and while no remains had been located by nightfall, lowering water levels raised optimism that the squad would be able to visit areas around Black Hollow Creek Road that had previously been submerged.
The following day, July 25, crews located the body of an adult male in the river near mile marker 92.
CDOT continues to warn that travelers should be ready for disruptions and road closures because of weather issues through at least the rest of this week — and possibly beyond.