'What we're seeing is truly unprecedented': CDOT continues avalanche mitigation work

CLEAR CREEK COUNTY, Colo. (KKTV) - Experts say Colorado's high country is just in the middle of what is already a historic avalanche cycle. Over the past week, dozens of avalanches have impacted highways, buried cars, and closed roads for hours at a time.

The Colorado Department of Transportation is deploying an aggressive avalanche mitigation plan to lessen the danger for drivers.

“Mother nature is flexing her muscle right now, so drivers in mountain areas need to be prepared," said CDOt Executive Director Shosana Lew.

On Sunday, CDOT used a helicopter to drop 40-pound bombs on slopes near I-70 to trigger controlled avalanches. Slides along the corridor were triggered at Vail Pass, Tenmile Canyon, and Silver Plume. It's part of an ongoing mitigation plan.

“Given the situation right now we are taking extra precautions," said CDOT Director of Operations Kyle Lester. "We’re concerned enough that we want to bring them down in a controlled fashion.”

Scientists who study avalanches in our state have described the past week in Colorado as "historic and unprecedented." In just a NINE-day period, around 500 avalanches were recorded by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

“We are well over the 2,500 avalanches that we typically document in a year," said Dr. Ethan Greene, executive director of the CAIC.

Avalanches are running over their traditional boundaries, even where large avalanches have been documented in the past.

“The avalanche that hit Highway 82 the night before last contained trees in them that we will have to go back and date. They are several hundred years old," Greene said. "They are larger than the trees that we’ve documented before in avalanches that were 350 years old.”

On Saturday, an avalanche was recorded near Aspen that was estimated to be at least a mile wide. According to a report from the CAIC, it ran over 3,000 vertical feet, taking out large swaths of forest.


"We’re still very much in the middle of it," Greene said. “It’s not to say that you shouldn’t go into the mountains, but you should be very careful about what your plans are and where you’re going.”

CDOT crews are continuing mitigation efforts, but say drivers should expect possible closures and delays anywhere up in the high country.