Local News

U.S. 24 through Ute Pass reopens after mudslide

Highway closed for 4 hours Saturday evening

Ute Pass Recovers From Mudslide

EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. - Highway 24 reopened after being closed Saturday for several hours when heavy rain on the Waldo Canyon burn scar caused mud to flow onto the highway.

The highway closed between Cave of the Winds and Cascade around 3 p.m. and completely reopened at 7 p.m. when a flash flood warning expired.

The mudslide overwhelmed a flood control project the Colorado Department of Transportation built to prevent similar floods that occurred after the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire.

"I don't know if I'd say I was surprised," said CDOT supervisor Kenneth Quintana.  "The ground's saturated.  But our engineers designed the project.  We'll be taking a look at it."

Quintana said the mudslide filled a retention basin that was designed to allow runoff to drain smoothly.

Tina Hancock of Woodland Park and her family were driving through the mudslide as it happened.  She recorded a video clip.

"We actually saw the cars in front of us hit the mudslide and saw a bunch of mud fly into the air," she said.  "That's when we slowed down and that's when I started to record it, because it started getting crazy.  So we actually ended up having to drive on the opposite side of the road.  It just seemed like chaos."

Quintana said CDOT had 15 people and 14 pieces of heavy equipment working on clearing the highway.  Eastbound traffic resumed first because most of the flooding was on the westbound side.

Traffic was heavy in both directions on the highway for an hour after it completely reopened. 

Many drivers questioned why the highway didn't reopen sooner and why CDOT didn't direct traffic in both directions to the eastbound lanes. 

One driver, Sharrie Nicholson, was frustrated because her father was taken to the hospital in Woodland Park and she was unable to meet him quickly because she was on the opposite side of the highway closure.

"The most frustration is there's a way to get past the mudslide, and even though it might take some time, it's better than sitting here for three hours waiting to get through," she said.

While many drivers grumbled about the long wait, most understood that safety was the underlying reason.  Victor Lewis chose to make the best use of his time.

"I took a little detour up to the Cave of the Winds," he said.  "First time I've ever been there -- even though I've lived in Colorado since 1959 -- and had an enjoyable time."

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