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Ute Pass closes, reopens twice during latest heavy rain

By Scott Harrison
Published On: Sep 12 2013 04:31:11 PM CDT

U.S. 24 has closed and reopened twice in the last 18 hours because of the latest threat of flash flooding.


Traffic in both directions on U.S. 24 through Ute Pass moved to the eastbound lanes Thursday as workers repaired an eroded section on the westbound lanes.

The Colorado Department of Transportation authorized the switch around 2:30 p.m.  Bob Wilson, a CDOT spokesman, said the highway would close again by 3 p.m. as another cell of heavy rain was expected in the area. 

Heavy rain forced the closing of the highway at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday.  It reopened around 5:30 a.m. Thursday and closed again at 9:30 a.m.

CDOT said heavy rain eroded a chunk of earth from under the left lane pavement just east of Cascade.  A stretch of the highway near that area sustained less severe erosion.  CDOT workers began repairs immediately, hoping to make progress before more rain arrived in the afternoon and evening.

CDOT reopened Ute Pass around 2 p.m. Thursday by keeping the westbound lanes closed and allowing one lane of traffic in each direction in the eastbound lanes.

Many drivers expressed frustration about the closures.  They waited along the highway in several places east of Cave of the Winds where the roadblock was.  A state trooper directing traffic at the intersection became impatient occasionally with drivers who traveled too slowly and stopped to ask when the highway would reopen.

"I don't know," he said.  "I wish I could tell you.  Keep moving.  Not on the shoulder.  Keep going."

The weather also caused several rockfalls at the cave's entrance.  A CDOT plow cleared away the first rockfall overnight.  The second rockfall happened around 12:15 p.m. Thursday, and missed hitting a vehicle by five minutes.  The driver of the vehicle stopped to move rocks out of her way.

CDOT didn't indicate how long it would take to repair the flood damage on U.S. 24.

The weather also caused more erosion to an already-damaged section of West Manitou Avenue, also known as Old Highway 24.  A state trooper said he saw a large section of the road break away.  The road has been closed since a flood earlier this summer.

Check with, KRDO NewsChannel 13 and KRDO radio for updates on the status of U.S. 24 in Ute Pass.