Labor Day Weekend in Colorado: What to know about I-70 traffic, weather

With a flash flood watch in effect for Glenwood Canyon and the Labor Day weekend approaching, weather forecasters, CDOT officials and holiday travelers will be closely monitoring events on Wednesday because of the potential for heavy rainfall that could cause mudslides in burn scars there.

The current flash flood watch went into effect Wednesday at 10 a.m. and runs through midnight, with more rain forecast for Thursday. The National Weather Service office in Grand Junction said “multiple rounds of rainfall” are possible and that there is “increased flash flood potential” for burn scars and slot canyons.

Glenwood Canyon was closed multiple times in July and August because of mudslides in burn scars that covered and damaged Interstate 70.

“We are anticipating heavy rainfall today,” said CDOT spokeswoman Stacia Sellers. “Confidence remains high that widespread showers and thunderstorms capable of producing heavy rainfall will threaten the burn area today, particularly during the afternoon and evening. Enough moisture will hang around on Thursday for the continued threat of heavy rain.”

Scott Stearns, a forecaster for the National Weather Service, said light to moderate rainfall is likely over the Glenwood Canyon burn scars Wednesday afternoon, but the main concern is over what might happen Wednesday evening.

“If that other shot does happen this evening, it’s going to be problematic in the canyon, there’s no doubt about that,” Stearns said. “It’s just a matter of whether that second shot actually materializes. We’re going to be looking at that pretty closely today. That’s the concern.”

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Stearns said weather service forecasters are likely to be in communication with CDOT officials multiple times on Wednesday as the weather situation evolves. While the heaviest rains are forecast for Wednesday, there is still potential for strong thunderstorms on Thursday.

“We’re not exactly sure where those are going to land,” Stearns said. “Even though the potential is not as high as today, the canyon could still have issues tomorrow afternoon with any storms that could develop.”

If mudslides don’t shut down the canyon on Wednesday or Thursday, prospects for holiday travelers are expected to improve. Forecasts for Friday through Monday call for a “drying trend,” Stearns said, with sunny or mostly clear skies.

In July, heavy rainfall in Glenwood Canyon burn scars and resulting mudslides caused multiple closures of the canyon. Detours via Kremmling, Steamboat Springs and Craig added 100 miles to the drive from Silverthorne to Rifle.

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