Gov. Jared Polis declares Glenwood Canyon mud, rock and debris slides a disaster

A disaster declaration has been issued in response to the damaging mud, rock and debris slides that forced the closure of Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon.

Gov. Jared Polis on Friday announced the declaration, which authorizes the use of the Colorado National Guard for traffic control and debris removal, according to a news release.

The declaration activates the state’s Emergency Operations Plan and enables state agencies to better coordinate their response, while also providing additional funds to respond to the damage and repairs needed in areas affected by burn scar flooding and slides, the release said.

“The I-70 corridor through Glenwood Canyon is critical to Colorado’s economy and necessary for Coloradans to swiftly move around the state. Glenwood Canyon plays a major part in the daily lives of communities across the Western Slope as well as in moving our supply chain across the state, supporting our outdoor recreation industry, and so much more,” Polis said. “This disaster declaration will help to deploy more resources to clear the canyon and ensure Colorado prepares for future disasters that may impact this critical juncture on I-70.”

Between June 26 and July 28, the Colorado Department of Transportation closed I-70 through Glenwood Canyon 12 times for flash flood warnings, according to the declaration. During the same period, at least five flood events caused mudslides and debris flows to cover the highway, which prolonged I-70 closures while CDOT crews cleared the roadways.

On July 29, 2 to 4 inches of rain fell in an hour in Glenwood Canyon, which led to more debris flows onto the highway. A major overnight rainfall July 31 caused more slides and debris flows onto the highway, which has been closed indefinitely since then.

State officials and staff continue to assess damage and they’re preparing to request a federal disaster declaration from President Joe Biden under the Stafford Act and through the Federal Highway Administration. If approved, the federal declaration will provide additional funding and resources.

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