Despite snow, Independence Pass may open on time
Summertime, and the living is easy … but getting there is decidedly not, if you’re a Colorado Department of Transportation maintenance worker.
CDOT crews, working to open Highway 82 over Independence Pass, are not getting much reprieve during their efforts this week. Still, crews had a successful avalanche control mission on the east side this past Monday and workers from both sides are clearing snow in hopes of getting the roadway ready for the annual opening goal of 2 p.m. on the Thursday before Memorial Day.
Will this be possible? According to CDOT Maintenance Patrol Supervisor Marc Quintana, “It’s really just too soon to tell — but we’re moving in the right direction.”
Crews continue to move snow from snow drifts (and avalanche debris) as high as 25 feet in some areas, and have progressed to within a few miles of the summit (about a mile from the summit on the west side and three miles from it on the east.) Between the patrols working on each side, crews are operating — at least — two bulldozers, five loaders with blowers, four loaders with plows, two motor graders and a snowcat.
According Rob Hunker, CDOT’s avalanche forecaster with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, the chance of small avalanches in this area are not likely to pose a hazard to the highway (yet crews always wear beacons and use a spotter). Hunker also says the heaviest snowfall is expected to arrive Saturday, with showers and modest accumulations. He advises that cool, unsettled weather will likely continue into the middle of next week. CAIC data show that the snowpack depth of 37 inches on the east side represents 307 percent of average; and the 45 inches snowpack on the west side is at 221 percent of average.
Once the business of clearing snow and ice is complete, crews still need to finish clearing ditches, sweeping, repairing pot holes, repairing guardrail, striping, signing and much more. The 12,095-foot pass is closed each winter, due to harsh winter weather conditions, for the safety of the traveling public.
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