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Mudslide traps over a hundred motorists overnight in Colorado

Debris and mudslides from a burn scar around Glenwood Canyon forced closure of the crucial east-west artery that passes through the Rocky Mountains.

Colorado's main east-west highway remains closed after mudslides buried cars and blocked tunnels along parts of Interstate-70 near Glenwood Canyon.

Officials said motorists should expect it to stay closed through the weekend.

"There are severe impacts in the canyon due to mudslides and debris flow; there is also heavy rain in the forecast," the Colorado Department of Transportation said in a tweet Friday afternoon.

Mike Goolsby, a CDOT director, told KUSA that at least ten mudslides occurred and covered some parts with up to 12 feet of mud and debris.

"Sizewise, they vary anywhere from water and small debris that's spread out over a couple hundred yards or more to actual debris flows of bigger rock, mud and trees that are anywhere from 20 to 150 feet wide and upwards of 10 to 12 feet deep," Goolsby said.

More than 100 people have been evacuated from the canyon, and 29 people spent the night in the tunnel complex after flash flooding.

"I'm very grateful that no one was hurt. There were two cars that were actually surrounded, inundated by two of the debris flows," Goolsby said. "Those individuals are very fortunate they walked away from it. Their cars are not in good shape, but they are."

The mudslides and debris flow occurred in the areas scarred by the Grizzly Creek Fire, which started in August 2020 and burned 32,631 acres around Glenwood Canyon until it was fully contained in December 2020.

Glenwood Canyon is one of the last segments of the interstate system and was not completed until 1992. According to CDOT, it "has been hailed as an engineering marvel because of the care taken to incorporate the interstate improvements into the fragile canyon environment while leaving as much of the flora and fauna intact as possible."