Rain, Melting Snow Burst Colorado Creek
VAIL, Colo. (AP) _ Rampaging mountain creeks kept a major section of the state’s main east-west highway closed for a second day Monday, and hundreds of people left their homes overnight because of the threat of mudslides and floods.
No injuries were reported, but heavy runoff from deep alpine snowfields washed out a culvert and opened a 20-foot-wide sinkhole in Interstate 70. Several homes in Eagle County were flooded.
A 24-mile stretch of the highway was expected to be closed for days, forcing up to 30,000 vehicles a day to find another way across the mountains just as the summer vacation season was getting under way.
``We have engineers here, and there really is not much that they can do right now,″ Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Stacy Stegman said. ``The priority now is to minimize the damage.″
Residents of 220 homes were advised to evacuate Sunday night as heavy spring runoff and rain threatened to cause mudslides and sent Gore Creek over its banks.
``It’s too dangerous to let anybody in there,″ said Jamie Wilson, a spokeswoman for the town of Vail. Those who left were not allowed back to their homes.
Some homes were flooded, but Eagle County sheriff’s spokeswoman Kim Andree could not say how many. ``Literally, this one home has a waterfall coming over the side,″ she said.
I-70 is the only four-lane route through the Colorado high country. Drivers already near the closed section were sent on a 54-mile detour to the south, through Leadville on two-lane roads over two high mountain passes.
Truckers not yet in the mountains were advised to detour on I-80 through Wyoming to the north or I-40 through New Mexico to the south, potentially adding hundreds of miles to their trips.
Crews built berms to divert water, police went door-to-door asking residents to leave their homes, and reverse-911 calls were made to about 700 homes along Gore Creek asking residents to head for higher ground.
A 150-bed shelter was available but no residents went there.
``It’s the worse I’ve seen in about 10 years,″ said Margie Hanson, a Vail resident since 1967. ``We haven’t had a big snow year in a long time and people forget it can get bad.″