Colorado mudslides wreak havoc on major transportation route

August 8, 2021 ☼ climate

Source: MPR News

Link: Colorado mudslides wreak havoc on major transportation route

As ominous storm clouds gathered in western Colorado over a large area blackened by a recent wildfire, torrential rain fell and the charred land stripped of vegetation gave way, sending a rush of mud and boulders tumbling down steep canyon walls and onto a major highway.

The July 29 mudslides stranded more than 100 people in their vehicles overnight; that event and subsequent slides caused extensive damage that closed Interstate 70, capping several weeks of perilous conditions in a scenic canyon carved through the mountains by the Colorado River.

It marked the latest in a string of closures over the past two years for an area that serves as a key transportation corridor through the Rocky Mountains. Each forced long detours for semitrailers that deliver fuel and food, and inflicted economic pain on businesses that cater to tourists in the popular summer destination of Glenwood Springs.

The closures illustrate the kind of damage scientists have long warned can follow wildfires made worse by climate change: dangerous mudslides caused by rain in burn-scarred terrain. Though no injuries were reported, such slides have caused deaths and destruction in recent years in California and other parts of the U.S. West.

Fire and rain.