Rabbit Ears, westbound I-70 open for travel

Flight operations on schedule at YVRA


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The Colorado Department of Transportation posts up-to-date travel information and road conditions on the Web at www.cotrip.org. Travelers can also call 511 from anywhere in Colorado for travel information.

— Rabbit Ears, Gore, Cameron and Berthoud passes are open for travel Monday afternoon, as is westbound Interstate 70, after a Sunday storm that shut down highways and stranded travelers across much of Western Colorado.

Flights at Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden are on schedule, after numerous delays or cancellations Sunday.

Current road closures include eastbound I-70 between Vail and Georgetown and both directions of U.S. 6 on Loveland Pass, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.

"We are still receiving sustained winds of 50 mph and gusts up to 70 mph. The worst conditions exist east of the Eisenhower Tunnel," CDOT spokeswoman Mindy Crane said at noon Monday. "Weather conditions will need to greatly improve and avalanche control will need to be completed before I-70 (entirely) reopens. CDOT asks motorists to be patient and is encouraging them not to wait out the closure. In addition, U.S. 285 is currently open, but travel is not recommended along this route either as conditions are not much better."

More than 2,000 motorists along I-70 spent Sunday night in temporary Red Cross shelters, including the Silverthorne Recreation Center and Summit County Middle School in Frisco, as whiteout conditions greatly reduced visibility on much of the interstate.

CDOT spokeswoman Nancy Shanks said crews - working 12-hour storm shifts - closed Rabbit Ears Pass at about 3 p.m. Sunday and opened the road shortly before midnight. Colorado Highway 134, over Gore Pass, was closed from about 4 to 11 p.m. Sunday, Shanks said.

The Routt County Sheriff's Office responded to at least eight accidents on Sunday on Routt County Road 129 alone, Sheriff's Office employee Melissa Baumgartner said.

Many vehicles slid off the road on Rabbit Ears.

"One of our supervisors up there said he personally pulled out about 15 cars that had gone off the road," Shanks said. "The road was pretty well taken care of, but the visibility was so bad that people were just driving off:The plow drivers pulled out three semis as well. From what our crews worked on, they didn't report any property damage or injuries - at least nothing that was critical. We're glad that folks are OK."

Neither the Sheriff's Office nor Colorado State Patrol reported any fatalities or serious injuries related to vehicle accidents over the weekend.

Shanks said conditions were still hazardous Monday.

"Our crews on-scene say that it is still snowing, and the roads are snowpacked and icy," she said. "There is low visibility with blowing snow...From what we hear, this wind is expected to continue over the next couple of days. It's just not a great time to travel."

Shanks said on holidays and peak summer travel days, traffic on roads such as U.S. 40 is typically double the regular amount of vehicles.

Air travel was also difficult Sunday, as heavy snow fell on Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden. Several flights were cancelled and at least one airline, Northwest, transported Steamboat-bound passengers from Denver by bus.

The National Weather Service in Grand Junction on Sunday issued heavy snow and hazardous weather warnings for Northwest Colorado. The warnings were effective until 5 a.m. this morning and cited wind gusts of more than 50 miles per hour in a swirling storm system from the northwest.

Northwest Colorado could get a break severe from winter weather this week, according to the National Weather Service forecast.

"The next chance of snowfall for eastern Utah and western Colorado will be Friday and Saturday as the next Pacific low-pressure system passes," reads a seven-day outlook.


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