U.S. 550 May Remain Closed Through Weekend, at Least
by Samantha Wright
Jan 14, 2014 | 4203 views | 0 0 comments | 35 35 recommendations | email to a friend | print
PASS CLOSED - Road closures were still in effect on both the Silverton and Ouray sides of US 550 Red Mountain Pass on Wednesday morning, Jan. 15 and are expected to last throughout the week. (Photos by John Wright, Samantha Wright)
PASS CLOSED - Road closures were still in effect on both the Silverton and Ouray sides of US 550 Red Mountain Pass on Wednesday morning, Jan. 15 and are expected to last throughout the week. (Photos by John Wright, Samantha Wright)
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OURAY – U.S. 550 Red Mountain Pass will be closed “at least through the weekend,” due to extensive rockfall and unsafe conditions, according to Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Nancy Shanks.

Previous reports via the Ouray County Sheriff’s Office that the highway would reopen at least temporarily on Tuesday evening were incorrect, Shanks said.

“When there is rockfall, avalanche or a snowstorm, it’s our final word” whether conditions are safe enough to reopen a highway, she explained. “We are not certain that it is safe; right now the risk looks too great.”

The highway closure is due to a significant rockfall incident that began on Sunday evening, Jan. 12 and continued throughout the afternoon of Monday, Jan. 13, when a steady stream of rubble “rained down” from about 900 feet above the roadway, blocking a 200-foot stretch of the highway.

The highway has been continuously closed since Monday afternoon.

In addition to burying the highway, the rockfall took out a power line maintained by San Miguel Power Association, wiping out CDOT’s power supply to the Riverside Slide snow shed and Monument weather station.

The damaged power line also provides a backup power supply to the Ouray and Ridgway region. SMPA spokeswoman Becky Mashburn sent out an email alert on Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 14, warning that “if an outage occurs on the main power line bringing power into the Ouray and Ridgway region, [the damage to the backup line] could result in a longer outage time. Events like this can disrupt our system and could potentially inconvenience our members.”

Shanks reported that SMPA crews will conduct work to remove the damaged power structures on Wednesday, and if possible, begin to make repairs.

“Meanwhile, CDOT will continue to work with rockfall contractor Yenter Companies, to begin to mobilize to the area tomorrow or Thursday,” she said. “At this point the highway looks to stay closed through weekend, if not beyond.”

US 550 Red Mountain Pass connects the towns of Ouray and Silverton via a windy, mountainous 23-mile stretch of highway. Until the route reopens, travelers are advised to take a 200-mile detour via CO 62 over Dallas Divide and CO 145 over Lizard Head Pass.

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PUBLISHED AT 3:48 P.M  on TUESDAY, JAN. 14

Highway 550 to Reopen at 5 p.m. Tuesday

OURAY
The Ouray County Sheriff’s Office reports thatUS 550 Red Mountain Pass will reopen on Tuesday evening at 5 p.m., then close again on Wednesday between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., following a significant rockfall incident at mile marker 90, two miles south of Ouray, in a sheer cliffy area known as the Ruby Walls.

The highway has been closed continuously since 12:40 p.m. on Monday afternoon, Jan. 13, when a steady stream of rubble “rained down” from about 900 feet above the roadway, blocking a 200-foot stretch of the highway.

CDOT crews have been working throughout the day to assess the situation and clear the road for travel.

The public should continue to rely onwww.cotrip.org for updates.



PUBLISHED at 10:53 A.M. ON TUESDAY, JAN. 14

Massive Rockfall Shuts Down Red Mountain Pass

OURAY
U.S. 550 Red Mountain Pass remains closed this morning following a significant rockfall incident that began on Sunday evening and continued on Monday afternoon at mile marker 90, two miles south of Ouray, in a sheer, cliff area known as the Ruby Walls.

The first road closure came on Sunday evening, Jan. 12, from 7:30 to 9:11 p.m. after “a great deal of rubble came down from about 900 feet above the highway,” Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Nancy Shanks reported.

CDOT officials closed the pass again on Monday afternoon, Jan. 13, when a steady stream of rubble “rained down” from about 900 feet above the roadway, starting at about midday and continuing throughout the afternoon and evening. Shanks reported that rocks up to two feet in diameter covered the road for about 200 feet, with piles of rubble in some places up to eight feet deep.

The rockfall took out a power line, wiping out CDOT’s power supply to the Riverside Slide snow shed and Monument weather station.

According to Shanks, nobody has been injured in the rockfall incident, but “there were two folks with broken windshields and at least one flat tire,” she said. “That’s what we deal with here in Colorado. We are very fortunate that no one was more severely impacted, including our CDOT guys.”

CDOT conducted extensive rockfall mitigation work along the Ruby Walls stretch of Red Mountain Pass a dozen or so years ago, “but in a much lower area, about 100 feet up above the highway,” Shanks said. About five to six years ago, there was another major rock fall incident at the same site.

“There are always smaller rocks that come down in that area,” Shanks said, “but nothing in the historical record that shows rock coming from that high above. This could be a lengthy closure.”

CDOT rockfall contractor Yenter Companies is on the scene this morning to provide further assessment via land and helicopter. There is no reopen estimate at this time. The public should continue to rely on www.cotrip.org for roadway messages.

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