mudslide

Mudslides on Norwood Hill closed that section of Highway 145 for nearly three hours Saturday afternoon. (Photo courtesy of San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office)

The week of heavy rain caused more mudslides Saturday afternoon, when mud, rocks and debris covered parts of Norwood Hill at mile markers 94 and 96-98, according to a San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office announcement posted on social media.

The stretch of Highway 145 was completely closed to traffic, as it took nearly three hours to fully clear and reopen the roadway. A flash flood advisory was in effect, while Sanborn Park Road was deemed impassable and closed.

“Avoid the area,” officials warned.

Colorado Department of Transportation, state patrol and Norwood Fire Protection district all assisted in the cleanup effort. No injuries were reported, according to sheriff’s office public information officer Susan Lilly.

The Norwood Hill slides weren’t the first of the week. On July 20, a mudslide released into the East Pandora neighborhood, and left three feet of debris on the river trail. No injuries or structural damage was reported, Lilly told the Daily Planet at the time, but Highway 145 east of Lone Tree Cemetery was open to alternating lanes due to debris removal.

At the same time, Imogene Pass was closed so the county could inspect bridge safety. It was reopened the following day.

A hiker “requested assistance getting out of steep terrain that was compromised with the torrential rain and slides,” Lilly explained, and was safely retrieved by way of UTV up Tomboy Road.

Telluride deputies and search and rescue also responded to a motorist who was “stuck above the stairs on Black Bear Pass” with four other occupants and his pet, Lilly said.

No injuries were reported during either rescue last week.

Unlike last week, there weren’t any flash flood advisories in effect as of press time Tuesday afternoon, but the forecast calls for at least a 50 percent chance of rain every day through Sunday this week, which means conditions throughout the area are still ripe for mudslides.

“Like we’ve been seeing pretty much every afternoon, there’s definitely a chance for showers and storms to form in the high terrain and move around the Telluride area,” said Kris Sanders, a forecaster at the National Weather Service office in Grand Junction. “ … That’s going to increase your chance for flooding, debris flows and mudslides.”

People should continue to pay attention to weather patterns throughout the week, as well as areas where slides are more likely, he added.

“As far as the next couple days, the threat is there, but what we’re seeing now compared to later in this week and the weekend, we’re going to get a little more moisture and maybe even some forcing mechanisms to help the storms form over the terrain,” Sanders said. “We’re probably looking at a slightly higher risk of rain in the Telluride area this week and into this weekend. … The rates are certainly there, so if it hits that one spot on that one mountain pass, the likelihood of it going is high.”

While it’s too early to tell, Sanders explained that the wet weather may cease early next week, or it may be more of the same.

“Looks like there could be a downtick in thunderstorm or some slightly drier air pushing in which would decrease the threat for heavy rain,” he said. “It’ll still be there probably. It just depends on how big this dry push is. Some models are showing some pretty good drying; some are showing little drying before the monsoon pushes back in. There’s increased potential going into the weekend. Potentially something less active earlier next week, but we’re still watching that.”