Every winter, CDOT regularly monitors and/or controls some 278 of the 522 known avalanche paths in Colorado tohelp prevent avalanches from impacting Colorado highways.
To help predict avalanche conditions and the necessity for avalanche control, CDOT teams up with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, which studies forecasts and current weather conditions. Some factors that increase the risk of avalanche danger are large quantities of new snow, high winds and drastic changes in temperatures.
When there is a high risk of avalanche danger, CDOT will close highways at the location of the avalanche path in order to conduct avalanche control. Once all the unstable snow has been brought down, CDOT crews have to clear all of the snow and debris from the roadway before reopening the highway to traffic. Since it is impossible to predict how much snow will be brought down during a control mission, CDOT cannot estimate how long a highway closure will be in place. CDOT will open the highway as soon as it is safe for the traveling public.
Anytime CDOT conducts avalanche control, messages will be posted on electronic signs in order to inform motorists of the road closure. In addition, motorists can visit the web at www.cotrip.org or call 511 for current road and weather information and updates on avalanche control work. Motorists can also sign up for e-mail and text message alerts.
During this past 2011-2012 winter season, CDOT triggered 516 avalanches with explosives and handled 83 natural occurrences, all of which impacted Colorado highways. CDOT experienced 332 hours of road closures due to avalanche control, resulting in a total of 13,221 feet of snow covering the centerline of the roadway. The roads were closed a total of 370 hours for avalanche hazard mitigation—there were no injuries, fatalities or equipment damage.
For additional information on CDOT's Avalanche Program and avalanche data, please click here.
Filed under: Winter Driving