Updated March 12, 2011 at 12:56 a.m.
Steamboat Springs A Hayden woman was taken to Yampa Valley Medical Center on Friday afternoon after a rock fell from a cliff and crashed through the windshield of the vehicle she was riding in.
Colorado State Patrol Trooper Chris Lorio said 38-year-old Lorena Gutierrez had minor injuries, and doctors were examining her for possible internal injuries.
Lorio said the woman was traveling with two people in a silver Chevrolet Suburban. As the vehicle headed west near mile marker 116 on U.S. Highway 40 a few miles east of Hayden, a rock fell from a cliff, struck the hood of the car, went through the windshield on the passenger side and hit Gutierrez in the chest. Lorio estimated that the rock was about 3 inches thick, 6 inches wide and 10 inches long. The westbound lane of U.S. 40 was shut down for about 15 minutes just after noon.
The incident occurred about two miles east of where Craig resident Karen Evanoff was killed March 10, 2010, when a basketball-size rock struck the roof of the car she was riding in. The driver was not injured. Earlier that week, on March 8, 2010, Interstate 70 at Glenwood Springs was closed because of a massive rockslide in the Glenwood Canyon. No one was injured in that incident.
Higher daytime temperatures coupled with freezing temperatures at night this time of year can lead to rocks shifting during the freeze-thaw cycle.
“They are having a lot of rocks fall in that area,” Lorio said.
A crew from the Colorado Department of Transportation was doing rock removal work about a quarter-mile from where the rock fell, said Stacey Stegman, a CDOT spokeswoman. The accident occurred in a half-mile area that has been designated a work zone for a crew that is scaling the cliff in an effort to knock down loose rocks. Those efforts have been hampered by the amount of snow on the cliff, Stegman said.
“There are quite a few random rocks that have been coming down because of the freezing and thawing,” she said.
Lorio said the CDOT rock removal work was taking place too far from the incident to suggest that the crew caused the rock to fall.