Crews have reopened at Highway 24 between Manitou Springs and Cascade after the flash flood warning expired early Thursday morning.
The highway was closed twice Wednesday due to heavy rain over the Waldo Canyon burn scar. It was closed the first time for an hour and a half; the second time, it was shut down for four hours. It's been closed a total of four times this week.
"First in line [chuckles]! Missed it by a few minutes, I'm sure,"Woodland Park resident Doug Diamond told 11 News. He waited at the front of the long line of traffic during the first closure.
Diamond was one of the many drivers who found themselves caught on either side of Cave of the Winds or Cascade Wednesday. The drivers told 11 News they understood the need to keep people out of danger, but were frustrated at how onerous the simple task of getting home became each time there was a risk of flooding. The roadway is always closed when there is a flash flood warning.
"The highway gets closed often, and we never really know if there was a flood or not. Did the mitigation work they did over the summer, did it work or not?" Diamond added.
Last summer, drivers traveling between Manitou and Cascade found themselves caught in the path of mudslides and debris flow when rain would suddenly hit the Waldo Canyon burn scar. Unforgettable footage from last year shows cars being swept down the highway by mud and people scrambling to reach higher ground. One person was killed on the highway during flash flooding in August.
To prevent drivers from being caught in such a dangerous spot during storms, officials have since taken to closing Highway 24 whenever there is flash flood warning. This week, CDOT began installing a video and sensor rain gauge in Williams Canyon to help them better monitor the threat to Highway 24 during a storm. They hope this will give them a better idea of when it's best to close down the highway; and better straddle the line between safety and convenience for drivers.
As fed up as many commuters are with the frequent road closures this summer, some are looking on the bright side.
"If they close the road when people are up here, it's really good for business!" Genny Parliament with The Winery at Pikes Peak in Cascade said. "We know that it's going to happen inevitably [closing Highway 24], so we just make the best of it and hope that it works in our favor."
Parliament was also stuck where she was when the highway was closed the first time Wednesday.
"I made it to my truck...saw the lights were up and the roads were closed and I wasn't going anywhere.
"I think they are absolutely right in closing it when they do and safety is always the biggest concern when it comes to flooding down the pass."