GLENWOOD CANYON, Colo. (KDVR) — When Autumn Bair left her job at the Glenwood Springs Hospital Thursday night, she was relieved to see Interstate 70 was back open.
Bair lives at Bair Ranch, about 13 miles east of Glenwood, a commute that’s been difficult to maneuver with frequent mudslide closures over the past month and a half.
“It was just a light rain in Glenwood, but the canyon was open,” she says. “And it kind of progressively got worse as I went through the canyon, until I got to Hanging Lake tunnel.”
Bair says she came out of the east side of the tunnel to heavy rain, and a realization she was in serious trouble.
“I knew I was in a pickle, because the rain got so intense that my windshield wipers couldn’t keep up,” she says. “I got caught in some debris, and I was unable to get the car to keep going past that point.”
Bair says she cracked her door open, and saw mud and water coming into her car.
“My biggest fear was that I was just going to get buried in there,” she says. “Because I’ve been in here, and I’ve seen the slides enough that you just don’t know how much is going to come, and my instincts just set in, and told me to get out of there.”
Bair says she figured she was about a mile from her family’s home at Bair Ranch, and decided to set out on foot.
By that point, the Colorado Department of Transportation had shut down the interstate, and Bair says she quickly realized she was the furthest car to the east inside the closure.
“It was probably a little bold leaving the protection of my car, but right or wrong, I just felt like I have to get out of here, I’m not getting buried in this car.”
Eventually, Bair was able to reach safety and call her husband Jim, who drove to meet her near the Bair Ranch exit.
Friday morning, they returned to the canyon to retrieve the car, which had been partially dug out by CDOT and emergency crews.
“They dug out around it, and they had it kind of ready for me honestly,” she says. “Those guys were already on it, super helpful.”
Bair Ranch is a tourist destination, and while Bair says the frequent closures have had an impact on business, she hopes the mudslides don’t scare people away from visiting the region. She’s also thankful for CDOT workers, who have been working around the clock to keep the interstate open.
Saturday, CDOT says workers removed 135 truck loads of mud and rocks from the slide areas.
“We know this is a temporary thing and they’re working hard to get it back open,” she says.