Stranded I-70 drivers frustrated after no warning about CDOT’s planned avalanche

CLEAR CREEK COUNTY, Colo. -- The Interstate 70 closures on Tuesday turned into a nightmare for drivers.

This time, the avalanche on I-70 was not a mistake. The Colorado Department of Transportation said it triggered the avalanche about 8:45 a.m. as a part of mitigation efforts. However, the slide was larger than expected, and it left massive piles of snow and debris across both directions of the interstate. The highway was closed, leading to drivers being stranded.

The closure lasted more than 9 hours before the highway was reopened about 6 p.m.

"I thought it was just a little traffic jam and I sat up here for awhile and heard some booms and could see the snow flying," said driver Mike Beasley.

Eventually, everyone was directed to turn around, but that didn't do much. Those folks were at a standstill too, parked on a random exit off Colorado's mountain corridor.

“We’ve been sitting," said stranded driver Jim Wright.

Signs along the highway did warn drivers to pull over or turn around to avoid the traffic. However, they confused drivers who did not know an alternate route, which was especially difficult to find considering three other mountain highways were closed for avalanche mitigation Tuesday.

Drivers were frustrated that there was no warning for CDOT's planned avalanche, but agency spokesperson Tamara Rollison said there’s a reason for that.

“We are using explosives. And because of safety reasons, we don’t give prior notification because if we do, we run the risk of curiosity seekers and other people possibly getting in the path of the avalanche and that’s the last thing we want," said Rollison.

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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