I-70 reopens after Saturday snowstorm stranded motorists

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CLEAR CREEK COUNTY, Colo. -- Heavy snow and busy holiday travel combined to forced the closure of I-70 in both directions approaching the Eisenhower/Johnson Tunnel Saturday afternoon.

By Saturday night, blowing snow and icy conditions resulted in long stretches of closures.

Westbound closed from Morrison Road to the tunnel and eastbound was closed at Vail, and from the Silverthorne exit to the tunnel.

The interstate reopened by Sunday morning.

Eisenhower Johnson Memorial Tunnel lost power on Saturday night, according to CDOT and there was no control over the lights on the highway or the digital message boards.

Some motorists on social media said they had been stranded for hours.

A crash shut down mile marker 248 at Beaver Brook. Conditions have been labeled "extreme."

The closure has forced all traffic to turn around at Floyd Hill.

US 40 from I-70 over Berthoud Pass to Winter Park closed because of extreme conditions and crashes around 5:30 p.m.

A tweet posted at 6:11 p.m. said that high country officials are working on setting up shelters.

The Colorado Department of Transportation said crews were repositioning snowplows to deal with the harsh conditions that created unsafe driving conditions.

The Colorado State Patrol said there were several vehicles that did not have adequate tires for the snowy, icy conditions. They became stuck on hills or they slid off the road.

Blowing snow and slippery roads were expected to persist through late Saturday night.

Vail Police tweeted out a photo of a shelter set up for stranded motorists. It's located at the Vail Municipal Building, 75 S. Frontage Rd. W., in Vail. by roughly 10:15 p.m., the shelter was reportedly full.

Officials set up additional shelter at Vail Interfaith Chapel.

And CSP Public Affairs released a video of a police car pushing another up a slick hill.

RELATED: More snow on the way ahead of Christmas

CDOT offers the following list of tips and guidelines for Colorado drivers to be winter ready:

Check your tires

  •  Worn tires can’t grip the road well and can be extremely hazardous. Check your tires by performing the Quarter Test. Insert a quarter into the tire tread upside down, with Washington’s head going in first; if the top of George’s head is covered by the tread, your tires are OK (do this test in multiple points around each tire). If the top of his head is visible at any point, you need new tires.
  • Invest in safety by getting a set of snow tires. When it comes to stopping safely on snow and ice, all-season tires simply don’t compare to winter tires (see infographic).
  • If your tires don’t have at least a one-eighth inch tread when a Traction Law is called, you are in violation of the law and could end up with a fine.

Leave extra room

  • Leave extra room between your vehicle and others on the road at all times.
  • Even vehicles with four-wheel/all-wheel drive will not stop any quicker on icy roads, especially if you have inadequate tires.

Drive for conditions

In poor visibility, don’t drive faster than you can see ahead. High speeds in poor visibility can lead to dangerous chain reactions.

Bow to the plow

  • Snow plows need space to work, so unless you want to cause a crash, delays or be stuck on a snow-covered road, don't crowd the plow!
  • If you must pass a snowplow, do so on the left and with extreme caution.

Be I-70 smart

  • Check Goi70.com to see travel forecasts for the I-70 mountain corridor, road updates, rideshare and parking information, deals on lodging, food and entertainment for travelers and more.
  • Remember to avoid peak travel times whenever possible and consider carpooling or alternative transportation.

Have a plan

  • If you are stuck in a serious storm, do not leave your car. Run the engine periodically and wait for help.
  • Prepare a winter driving vehicle kit. Carry blankets, water, a flashlight, a shovel, some nutrition bars or other food for sustenance. Winterize your vehicle's safety kit by including extra blankets, sand to help gain traction in the event you become stuck on ice or snow, jumper cables and an ice scraper.

Additionally, all motorists should be familiar with Colorado’s Passenger Vehicle Traction Law and Passenger Vehicle Chain Law. These laws are implemented when weather and road conditions require it, at which time highway signage will be activated to alert drivers.

  • Traction Law — When the Traction Law is in effect, motorists must have snow tires, tires with mud/snow (M/S) designation, or a four-wheel/all-wheel drive vehicle — all tires must have a minimum one-eighth inch tread.
  • Passenger Vehicle Chain Law — Reserved for severe winter conditions as the final safety measure before an interstate is closed, the Passenger Vehicle Chain Law states that every vehicle on the roadway must have chains or an alternative traction device (like AutoSock).

Without proper equipment, you can be fined $130. If your vehicle blocks the roadway, you could be fined more than $650.

CDOT snow plows are out in full force throughout the weekend taking care to clear the roadways and apply deicing products. Motorists are asked to stay behind the plows as that can often be safer than being in front of them. If a motorist must pass a plow, please pass on the left. Travelers can see where plows have been and where they're going by using CDOT's plow tracking tool.

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