by Dalton Carver
Colorado Department of Transportation is known for handling road construction and improvement on public highways throughout the state, but some of their employees are also trained in a skill not many study up on – explosives and triggering avalanches. CDOT mitigation crews have braved area mountain passes four times this winter to knock down slides and keep the public safe, as well as the highways clear.
The most recent mitigation event left US 550 closed for longer than anticipated, but that triggered slide carried more snow than CDOT expected. The department closed the highway between Ouray and Durango last Thursday for avalanche mitigation and initially reported US 550 would be closed for only part of the day. After triggering slides, the closure continued for the entire day, reopening around 9:15 p.m. on Feb. 7. Crews needed extra time to clear the highway passages, as the triggered slides brought down more than 15 feet of snow on some areas of US 550. Lisa Schwantes, CDOT communications director, said the department...