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Travelers urged to be aware of potential challenges as monsoon season hits

July 24, 2020 - Southwestern Colorado

heavy rains in southwestern colorado

CDOT FILE PHOTO (2019): Last summer CDOT equipment operators responded to mudslides on several Colorado highways. CDOT encourages drivers to be prepared for situations which may cause delays or closures of roadways, particularly in mountainous regions.

COLORADO ―  The Colorado Department of Transportation asks that motorists plan for heavy rains this weekend and into next week, especially in the San Juan and Sangre de Cristo mountain ranges. Drivers should check the latest weather forecasts and road conditions before traveling. Heavy monsoonal rains and summer storms can lead to challenging driving conditions. Colorado highways, particularly those in mountainous areas, can be vulnerable to the impacts of weather and natural emergencies. Some roadways have already experienced incidents of flash flooding, mudslides and rock falls over the past few weeks. These events can cause major dilemmas for the traveling public and CDOT maintenance crews.  

It is important that the traveling public be aware of summer weather conditions and forecasts. Just as motorists prepare for driving in the winter time, during summer months, travelers should also be ready for heavy rain storms, hail storms and what can potentially occur after those storms – flooding, mudslides and falling rocks. 

FLOODED ROADWAYS 

When motorists drive up onto a flooded area, there are several precautions to follow.  

  • Never drive through any flooded area, you do not know how deep or how fast the water is running. 

  • Even 8-10 inches of water can float an average-sized car, which can be easily swept off the road. 

  • Driving too fast on wet roads or in flooded areas can cause a vehicle to hydroplane. Never use your cruise control during rainy conditions with standing water on the roadway.

  • Any amount of flooding or mud can obstruct the roadway and hinder drivers from knowing exactly where to drive. If you cannot see the roadway, be smart and wait for the water to subside. 

  • Water and mud can contain unknown hazards hidden under the surface – rocks or other debris, like plant material and tree branches.

CLOSURES MAY BE NEEDED 

When CDOT determines that a road must be closed, the decision is made to protect everyone, including motorists and response crews. The need for some closures is obvious – mudslides cover the highway or large boulders tumble onto the road. But some closures may also be needed for an area that appears to be less impacted or less obvious of the required shut-down. The I-70 mountain corridor is a prime example: some sections of the interstate curve through narrow canyons, and the lanes can be divided by concrete barriers or portions of the roadway split with elevated levels. Because of these features, the closure may be needed miles away from the actual incident, so that exits and alternate routes can be accessed. It may also limit the possibilities to turn traffic around.

If you are stuck in a closure waiting for a road to be cleared of mud or rocks, do not leave your car unless absolutely necessary. Never hang out in the grassy median located between lanes. If traffic is moving in the opposite direction, the median can be a hazardous area. Emergency response vehicles and heavy equipment may also need the median area to move about and access the emergency scene.

Lengthy closures on the interstate may also be the result of staged releases. As stopped traffic backs up, creating long lines, traffic will be let go in stages, allowing traffic queues ahead to clear, before releasing more traffic. 

BE PREPARED 

Highway closures can last for as little as a few minutes or for as long as several hours. When drivers set out on a trip, especially through high country roads or the I-70 mountain corridor, it would be wise to have the car supplied with an emergency kit. The kit should contain at the very minimum: water, snacks, flashlight, and a blanket. Remember to also carry water for your pets if you’re traveling with animals. You may even consider packing some items to keep you or children occupied while waiting in the car. Activity books, colored pencils or a deck of cards can help pass the time.   

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

Travelers are urged to “know before you go.” Gather information about weather forecasts and anticipated travel impacts and current road conditions prior to hitting the road. CDOT resources include:

 

COVID-19  

Safe transportation infrastructure is essential for all of us, particularly for emergency first responders and freight drivers as Colorado navigates the COVID-19 pandemic. With that in mind, CDOT maintenance and construction crews  follow social distancing and other health safety measures to reduce COVID-19 exposure on the worksite. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced guidelines for construction activities. The public is urged to join the campaign for #DoingMyPartCO by practicing social distancing and wearing face masks.  As traffic returns to normal levels, motorists must drive cautiously and heed the speed limit so all of us can return home safely.   

WHOLE SYSTEM. WHOLE SAFETY.  

To heighten safety awareness, CDOT recently announced its Whole System — Whole Safety initiative. This project takes a systematic, statewide approach to safety combining the benefits of CDOT’s programs that address driving behaviors, our built environment and the organization's operations. The goal is to improve the safety of Colorado’s transportation network by reducing the rate and severity of crashes and improving the safety of all transportation modes. The program has one simple mission—to get everyone home safely.

ABOUT CDOT

CDOT has approximately 3,000 employees located throughout Colorado, and manages more than 23,000 lane miles of highway and 3,429 bridges. CDOT also manages grant partnerships with a range of other agencies, including metropolitan planning organizations, local governments and airports. It also administers Bustang, the state-owned and operated inter-regional express service. Gov. Polis has charged CDOT to further build on the state’s multimodal mobility options.

Colorado: The Official State Web Portal