Mudslides force dozens of motorists to spend night on motorway and in tunnel

Glenwood Canyon, Colorado, Mudslides, U.S.

More than 100 people had to spend the night on a motorway, including nearly 30 who took refuge in a tunnel, after rain in an area burned by a wildfire once again triggered mudslides in western Colorado, authorities said.

The people were caught with their vehicles on Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon on Thursday night.

Those in the tunnel were stuck for about nine hours until crews could carve out a path through the mud to reach them at about 6.30am local time on Friday, Garfield County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Walt Stowe said.

The tunnel serves as a 24-hour operations centre for the Colorado Department of Transportation, so it is relatively well-lit and has telephones, Mr Stowe said.

No injuries were reported.

The transportation department has accounted for 108 people, including 29 in the tunnel, who were stuck on the motorway overnight.

Glenwood Canyon has cliffs towering up to 2,000ft above the Colorado River, making it prone to rockslides and mudslides.

In recent weeks, rain over the area burned by a wildfire last summer has triggered frequent slides, resulting in closures of I-70, Colorado’s main east-west motorway.

Those closures have mostly occurred before the storm moves in, to prevent people from being trapped.

On Thursday, the canyon had temporarily closed earlier in the day as one storm cell approached but had reopened by the time a second storm cell moved in, which led to the vehicles and their passengers getting trapped, Mr Stowe said.

Transportation officials say the section of interstate is expected to be closed through the weekend because of the significant clean-up under way and because of heavy rain in the forecast.

“Because the National Weather Service has placed this area back under a Flash Flood Watch, there is a limited window of time to move all abandoned vehicles to safety,” the transportation department said in a news release.

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