By Sheridan Block
Red Mountain Pass remained closed Tuesday morning as Colorado Department of Transportation crews worked to clear the highway of rubble and debris following a series of rock slides that began Sunday evening.
Around 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, CDOT closed a 12-mile stretch of Highway 550, from mile marker 80 to 92, after a “great deal of rubble” poured across the roadway approximately 900 feet above the highway near mile marker 90, just two miles south of Ouray.
After the road was reopened at 9:11 p.m. on Sunday, a second slide closed the pass again at 12:40 p.m. on Monday. Debris continued to fall throughout the evening and continued through Tuesday morning, Ouray County Sheriff Junior Mattivi told the Board of County Commissioners during Tuesday’s meeting.
According to CDOT reports, rocks measuring up to six feet in diameter and piles of rubble were as deep as eight feet along certain parts of the road.
CDOT contractors Yenter Companies were on site Tuesday morning to further assess the situation with help from helicopter and road crews and hope to be able to provide more details for follow up work necessary to stabilize the area.
Reports on Tuesday also detailed that rubble has “continued to cascade down the mountainside” and covers the road for about 200 feet. While no injuries have been reported, the slides took out a power line, cutting off power to CDOT’s snow shed and the Monument weather station.
The rocks also damaged San Miguel Power Association’s power line that carries backup power supply to the Ouray and Ridgway region. SMPA crews are currently unable to access and repair the lines as of Tuesday morning, said Communications Executive Becky Mashburn.
“Unfortunately we know it will not be a quick fix,” Mashburn wrote in a press release. “Events like this can disrupt our system and could potentially inconvenience our members.”
There is no estimate as to when the road will re-open. CDOT’s Intelligent Transportation System website, www.cotrip.org/, lists Highway 145 as an alternate route for travelers.