CDOT explains mitigation work amid recent avalanches

DENVER -- Colorado remains on avalanche alert after some recent close calls on highways in the High Country.

At least three slides have impacted areas along I-70 in the past two days. The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) says March is typically an active month for avalanche mitigation work.

“We do this many times a year, particularly this winter,” said CDOT spokeswoman Tamara Rollison. “This has been a very heavy-snow winter up in the mountains.”

CDOT says it is constantly monitoring 278 known slide areas throughout Colorado. When needed, crews close highways and controlled slides are triggered. CDOT is able to drop case charges from helicopters, use howitzer cannons or Gazex stationary pipes filled with propane.

Uncontrolled avalanches impacting highways are rare, according to Rollison.

“That’s the first time since the early 80s since a slide that was not controlled actually came close to one of our roadways,” she explained.

FOX31 Pinpoint Weather meteorologists say the best terrain window for an avalanche is between a 30 to a 45-degree slope. Some slides can occur as high as 50 to 60 degrees, they said. But if a slope is lower than 30 degrees, the snow doesn’t slide. And if the slope is higher than 60 degrees, the snow doesn’t load.

If an avalanche hits your vehicle, CDOT recommends staying inside. Your vehicle could serve as a protective shell. Drivers should turn off the engine to avoid breathing in exhaust, and call for help if you have cell service.

New Podcast: Listen and subscribe to Fire & Ice. In this episode we travel with a team measuring snowpack on Berthoud Pass.

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