UPDATED 10 P.M.: Highways outside Craig begin to reopen after dangerous snow conditions
First responders and officials with Colorado Department of Transportation shut down several highways in and around Moffat County due to high winds and deep snow, including sections of U.S. Highway 40, Colorado Highway 13, and additional local roads.
As of 10 p.m. Colo. Highway 13 has reopened. CDOT was calling for high wind, snow, blowing snow, creating icy, snow packed conditions.
As of 8 p.m., much of Colo. Highway 13 has been opened, with a closure between mile markers 54 and 57 north of Meeker.
By 6 p.m. weather conditions had lifted enough to allow crews to open all sections of U.S. Highway 40 from Utah through Moffat County, and further east including Rabbit Ears Pass.
Colo. Highway 13 was still closed in both directions from Meeker to Craig to allow for the recovery of a tanker truck that had rolled over earlier in the day and continued inclement weather. Crews hoped to be able to reopen the road later in the evening, but no estimated time was provided.
Due to dangerous travel conditions, students that live outside of Craig sheltered in place until conditions allowed Moffat County School District transportation or parents were able to pick them up. By 5 p.m. only one student remained in school. The district was in contact with the parents and coordinating the safe return of the child.
Gov. Jared Polis declared an emergency due to the blizzard, activating the Colorado National Guard for search and rescue operations on the Front Range, according to a news release from CDOT, including closing segments of I-25 and I-70.
Late in the afternoon, officials with the Colorado Department of Transportation, Colorado State Patrol, and the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office were able to re-open U.S. Highway 40 from the Utah border to Craig. The highway remains closed between Steamboat Springs and Kremmling.
Colo. Highway 13 between Craig and the Wyoming state line has been reopened, but the stretch of road south between Hamilton and Meeker remained closed as of 4:30 p.m.
County road closures have required students who live outside Craig to shelter in place in their schools, according to the Moffat County School District. Students are being supervised, will be provided a meal, and will be taken to their homes when conditions are safe. Parents are allowed to pick their children up if they feel it’s safe to do so. Parents are advised to call their child’s school for the latest information.
U.S. Highway 40 between Craig and Maybell has been reopened after being closed due to dangerous snow conditions.
Moffat County Sheriff KC Hume has activated the county’s emergency operations center at the Public Safety Center in Craig in response to Tuesday’s snowstorm. Hume confirmed Moffat County suspended county road maintenance Tuesday morning until the weather event subsides. Hume said wind is the most significant risk factor for maintenance personnel still working in the elements.
“It’s unsafe for those crews to be out,” Hume said.
The Craig Press was given access to the emergency operations center about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, and many of Moffat County’s and Craig’s elected officials were in the room — including Superintendent David Ulrich of the Moffat County School District, Craig Police Chief Jerry DeLong, representatives from Yampa Valley Electric Association, Moffat County Road and Bridge, Capt. Doug Conrad with Colorado State Patrol, Colorado Department of Transportation officials, Moffat County Search and Rescue, Moffat County Commissioners Donald Broom and Don Cook, and Craig City Councilman Jarrod Ogden.
CDOT officials are reporting “multiple spin-outs on all major roadways across the state. Rapidly deteriorating conditions have made for very dangerous conditions on the roadways. Vehicle crashes are a key cause of closures. Expect extended closures through the blizzard for the next several hours.”
As of 12:30 p.m., closures on Colo. Highway 13 and U.S. Highway 40 remain in place as high winds continued to impact visibility.
Due to the high risk of avalanches near roads in the mountains, CDOT is urging people not to travel in Colorado’s mountain corridor.
“Anyone who chooses to travel in the mountains is at a huge risk of slides …” said CDOT spokesperson Amy Ford.
Colo. Highway 13 between milepost 50 and 76 is closed.
Colo. Highway 13 between Meeker and milepost 68 is closed.
Colo. Highway 13 north of Craig to the Wyoming state line is closed.
Colorado Department of Transportation is showing U.S. Highway 40 near from the Utah state line to Kremmling, milepost 0-187, is closed, but the highway is still open between Craig and Steamboat Spring.
High winds and low visibility are making travel hazardous. Law enforcement is asking people who don’t have to travel to stay off the roads. For those who must travel, slow down to help avoid accidents.
By 11:30 a.m. reports were coming in of other road closures, including Rabbit Ears Pass. Check cotrip.org for the latest closures.
Scanner traffic erupted Tuesday morning about 10:30 a.m. after several vehicles slid off the road near mile marker 88 on U.S. Highway 40. The accidents led officials to close U.S. 40 near Craig from mile marker 88 to mile marker 60. Moffat County Sheriff KC Hume confirmed U.S. Highway 40 was closed from Maybell to Craig.
“As conditions have worsened, we encourage folks that do not have to travel to not travel due to the blowing and drifting snow,” Hume said. “Conditions are bad.”
Hume was out and about Tuesday and said he would soon be joining a sheriff’s deputy to hopefully rescue a woman whose truck and trailer were stranded near the intersection of Moffat County Road 15 and Moffat County Road 64.
Conditions outside the city limits of Craig were reportedly so bad, plow crews throughout Moffat County reported roads and highways being impassable despite their best efforts to keep them clear.
Dangerous travel conditions to continue through Thursday morning
While the brunt of the storm is expected to impact the Front Range — with blizzard conditions forecast for Denver today and into Thursday morning — travel conditions are expected to be impacted statewide.
In Northwest Colorado, CDOT and other agencies will work together to determine if avalanche control operations are required to keep high country passes safe for the traveling public.
CDOT also advises that Douglas Pass, on Colorado Highway 139 in Mesa County, will close about 7 p.m. Wednesday and may remain closed through Thursday morning due to avalanche danger.
In addition, Colorado Highway 65 over Grand Mesa will close around noon Wednesday for avalanche mitigation.
Otherwise, Moffat County remains under a winter weather advisory until midnight Wednesday, and the National Weather Service is predicting 2 to 5 inches of additional snow accumulations with blowing snow and significantly reduced visibility.
CDOT encourages motorists to slow down, plan ahead, and be prepared to drive in tough winter conditions.
Craig Press will continue to update this story and others as the violent winter storm moves through the region. If you have photos, video or stories you’d like to share email firstname.lastname@example.org
Responders were on the scene Monday afternoon with a dual-vehicle collision at the intersection of Fourth and Ranney streets.