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I-70 reopens after avalanche control work; danger remains high

DENVER -- Interstate 70, and several mountain highways and passes were closed for several hours across the state on Tuesday because of mitigation work related to high avalanche dangers, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center and Colorado Department of Transportation said.

Interstate 70 was closed in both directions between Georgetown and Silverthorne about 10:30 a.m. U.S. 6 over Loveland Pass was also shut down, preventing drivers from getting over the Continental Divide. Drivers faced the same situation on U.S. 40 over Berthoud Pass.

A slide on the west side of the Eisenhower tunnel buried the interstate. It was triggered by mitigation work being done by CDOT and the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

Similar avalanche mitigation was required on the east side of the tunnel, CDOT said. I-70 reopened at Georgetown just before 3 p.m.

An avalanche up to 15 feet deep covered Interstate 70 on Vail Pass, forcing the closure of the busy highway about 2:45 a.m. Westbound lanes from Copper Mountain reopened about 12:45 p.m. Eastbound lanes reopened later in the afternoon.

CDOT said avalanche control work was possible on all mountain passes throughout the state on Tuesday.

RELATED: CDOT road conditions

U.S. 40 over Berthoud Pass was closed at 6:30 a.m. because of high avalanche danger. Crews did mitigation work, but the highway was still closed Tuesday afternoon.

Monarch Mountain didn't open Tuesday because CDOT shut down U.S. 50 for avalanche control on Monday afternoon. The highway between Salida and Gunnison reopened about 12:45 p.m. Tuesday.

An avalanche warning was in effect for several areas across the state, including Steamboat Springs and Flat Tops, Sawatch, Aspen, Gunnison, Grand Mesa, Front Range, Vail-Summit, North San Juan and South San Juan forecast zones, the CAIC said.

The warning is in effect until 6 p.m. Wednesday.

A powerful winter storm brought large amounts of snow and strong winds to the mountains of Colorado.

"Natural avalanches large enough to bury or kill a person are very likely Tuesday," the CAIC said. "Travel in or below avalanche terrain is not recommended during this warning period," the CAIC said.

Roughly 6 feet of snow have fallen in the past seven days in Crested Butte and another 30 inches of snow could fall by Thursday morning.

Crested Butte Mountain Resort closed Monday because of heavy snowfall.

The resort said Tuesday it was "dedicated to opening terrain as quickly as possible." Some lifts had delayed openings but the ski area was open.