Update: — Shortly before 9:00 p.m. Friday night, CDOT crews opened I-70 westbound, from Morrison to the Eisenhower Tunnel. U.S. 285, Kenosha Pass also reopened in both directions. Extreme winter driving conditions remain and motorists should be prepared for closures and delays.
Winter weather throughout the central Colorado mountains closed Interstate 70 for much of the day Friday, as the Colorado Department of Transportation advised motorists against attempting travel using alternate routes.
“The Colorado Department of Transportation advises motorists wanting to travel to or from the high country to stay where they are through this weekend,” says a Friday afternoon press release.
Interstate 70 between Golden and the Eisenhower Tunnel had been closed most of Friday due to drifting snow, whiteout conditions and multiple slide outs, as the Front Range was pummeled with more snow than expected. As of 6:30 p.m., there was no estimated time of reopening, according to CDOT.
In addition, portions of I-70 were closed on Friday for avalanche mitigation. That is likely to continue throughout the weekend, with more snow both Friday night and Sunday.
“CDOT’s Avalanche Mitigation Team, in coordination with the team from Colorado Avalanche Information Center, will reassess [Friday] evening and determine the best next steps,” says the state’s press release. “CDOT will continue to monitor each site throughout the weekend as snow and wind continue. Due to these factors, mountain travel will continue to be challenging and motorists should expect safety closures for avalanche mitigation through the weekend.”
An extended closure of I-70 cutting off Denver from the state’s main ski resorts has wide-reaching implications for travel and commerce. With the closure of U.S. 285 over Kenosha Pass Friday evening, the main alternate route was also closed. Even if an alternate open route could be found, CDOT is advising motorists to steer clear.
“The best course of action is if you are already in the mountains, stay in the mountains,” the release says. “Current weather conditions are persisting and more snow is on the way, forecasted through this evening and the weekend. Alternate routes … will also have extreme winter driving conditions.”
CDOT spokesperson Elise Thatcher added: “All highways in the high country have very poor visibility (if any at all). This is a big part of why we're asking drivers to stay in the mountains if they're already in the mountains and vice versa for drivers in the Front Range metro areas.”
The release noted that “on Sunday CDOT anticipates slow and heavy traffic from the mountains toward the Front Range, and encourages motorists to brace themselves for a very long Sunday trip home.”
Summit County and the American Red Cross opened an overnight warming shelter for Denver-bound motorists at Summit Middle School in Frisco on Friday night. A warming center was available during the day at the Silverthorne Recreation Center.