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Avalanche keeps US 40 over Berthoud Pass closed; Search continues for missing snowboarder

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011 4:58pm MDT
CDOT crews work to clear an avalanche that has covered US 40 over Berthoud Pass. (CDOT)

CDOT crews work to clear an avalanche that has covered US 40 over Berthoud Pass. Click to view a larger image. (CDOT)

With hurricane force winds and heavy snowfall conditions in Colorado’s high country have been treacherous in recent days.  The search continues for a snowboarder that disappeared at the height of the storm and an avalanche keeps US 40 over Berthoud Pass closed.

The winter storm that struck yesterday brought with it winds to 99 mph near Loveland Pass and 85 mph near one of the Breckenridge Ski Area mountains.  The strong winds coupled with the snow that fell has created dangerous avalanche conditions in the high country.

US 40 over Berthoud, US 6 over Loveland Pass and Interstate 70 were all closed at some point over the past 36 hours.  I-70 has reopened but US 6 remains closed due to adverse conditions and avalanche control work. 

While the skies have cleared over US 40 and Berthoud Pass, the massive avalanche has forced the highway to remain closed.  Images released by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) show the highway completed covered from the slide.  No ETA has been provided as to when the pass will open. 

  • Editor’s note – CDOT reports Berthoud Pass opened at 5:40pm. Read on though for for other information.

Search and rescue teams from Grand County were also combing the Berthoud Pass area for a missing snowboarder and his dog although it is unknown if that is in the same location as the avalanche.   26-year-old Jeffrey Miller, his dog and a companion were separated at the height of yesterday’s storm.  The severe weather conditions have limited the search for Miller. 

The snow from the avalanche has completely covered US 40 over Berthoud Pass. Click the image for a larger version. (CDOT)

The snow from the avalanche has completely covered US 40 over Berthoud Pass. Click the image for a larger version. (CDOT)

An Avalanche Warning is in effect for the Front Range mountain areas as well as the Vail and Summit County Areas.  The Colorado Avalanche Information Center warns of high danger levels saying, “Natural and human-triggered slides are likely in avalanche terrain where significant storm and wind-blown snow has accumulated.”  Most other areas in Colorado have been given a “considerable” danger rating for avalanches. 

Colorado’s weather this winter has been a story of two halves.  The eastern half of the state and the Denver area have been warmer and much drier than normal.  The western half of Colorado however has had a great deal of snow with some basins reporting more than 130% of normal snowpack.

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