A Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) drone has shot video revealing the massive scope of destruction by a mudslide to a section of the I-70 freeway west of Denver. Officials believe the stretch of roadway – a critical artery for Coloradans and entire the economy of the western US – may be kept closed for repairs for several weeks.
Massive mudslide that buried a vital western US roadway captured in drone video
The CDOT drone video was shot August 1, just hours after heavy rains produced flash flooding that sent an enormous mudslide down ravines and riverbeds surrounding the I-70. Tucked away in the 13,000-foot walls of Glenwood Valley, the highway fell victim to a chain of factors detonated by record downpours that swept more than 10 feet of mud across a 15-mile stretch of the road. Flying up and into the valley’s steep walls, the drone also captured the long, boulder- and tree-choked path the slide followed before swamping the I-70, stranding about 100 people in their cars overnight.
The causes of the calamity arose from a mix of factors that have sadly become recurring news items on a planet undergoing continued climate change.
Last year’s record-setting Cameron Peak fire – one of the three enormous blazes Colorado suffered last summer – left over 200,000 acres of land torched. Last week, the drought choking many US western states relented in Colorado, giving rise to a contrasting extreme weather event: torrential downpours that ran right off the barren, nearly impermeable ground. That water came crashing down on the I-70 below, carrying with it the mudslide, rocks, and trees captured in the drone video.
“Given the three historic wildfires that we experienced last summer, the three largest in the history of our state, we knew that we would see the severe impact that burn scars and debris can have on a landscape,” said Colorado Governor Jared Polis. “The average monthly rainfall for the entire month of July in Glenwood Canyon is 2.4 inches. We had nearly twice that rainfall over five days.”
Polis offered a hopeful scenario of the closed section of the I-70 being sufficiently cleared to allow a single lane in both directions to be opened for use within the next several days. Most estimates, however, say it will be weeks before the critical road is useable again – a real problem for travelers and merchandise truckers forced to take the nearest detour 2.5 hours away.
Worse still, as the drone video of the Glenwood Valley mudslide suggests, the fate of the I-70 may be shared other areas in the West now being ravaged by fires once the flames have been put out.
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