Log In

Reset Password

Whiteout snowstorm shuts down highways in Southwest Colorado

Semitrailers had to stop on Colorado Highway 145 because of poor road conditions and road closures. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)
U.S. highways 491 and 550 have closures; Lizard Head and Wolf Creek passes closed

High winds and heavy snow created hazardous driving conditions Wednesday across much of Southwest Colorado, including the San Juan Mountains.

According to a news release, the Colorado Department of Transportation has closures in place on multiple highways as a result of low visibility and safety concerns. There is no estimated time of opening for any of the closures.

CDOT reported Wednesday afternoon that the roads will remain closed throughout the night with the possibility of closures extending into Thursday.

“CDOT is continuing to monitor safety concerns including avalanche danger along southwest and south-central mountain passes,” according to a news release. “Travelers should be aware that additional highway closures may occur across the region due to hazardous conditions.”

On Wednesday, CDOT patrols reported whiteout conditions and significant winds. CDOT urged motorists to postpone and avoid travel. For the most current road conditions and closures visit COtrip.org. Travelers should be aware that winter maintenance work and safety closures may be in effect on many Southwest Colorado highways for the remainder of the week.

Mesa Verde National Park also closed Wednesday because of snowy weather conditions and high winds.

Colorado 145 Lizard Head Pass south of Telluride

A closure began at 11 a.m. on Colorado Highway 145 between Rico and Trout Lake (mile markers 48-61). There is no estimated time of opening as closures are dependent on hazardous weather and road conditions. CDOT urges all motorists to avoid travel.

U.S. 160 Wolf Creek Pass between Pagosa Springs and South Fork

U.S. Highway 160 Wolf Creek Pass was closed about 11:40 a.m. because of poor visibility. Eastbound traffic is being stopped at Treasure Falls (mile marker 157) and westbound traffic is being stopped just west of South Fork (mile marker 184). Safety closures are dependent on weather and will remain in effect until conditions are safe for travel. There is no estimated time of opening.

U.S. Highway 491 north of Cortez

U.S. Highway 491 is closed from Dove Creek to the Utah border.

The chain law in effect on U.S. 491 was from Lewis north to the Utah border, according to a 2 p.m. Montezuma County emergency alert. Four-wheel drive or snow tires or chains on passenger vehicles are required.

While U.S. 491 is open to Dove Creek, officials advise the public to stay off roadways if possible because of dangerous road conditions.

CDOT urges big rig drivers and passenger vehicles traveling east from Monticello, Utah, to stop. CDOT advises travelers to not drive into Colorado because of “treacherous driving conditions.”

U.S. Highway 491 1.4 miles east of Utah border. (Courtesy CDOT)
Colorado Highway 145 near Ophir. The highway is closed from Rico to Trout Lake.
U.S. Highway 550 between Durango and Ouray

At about 8:40 a.m., Highway 550 north of Purgatory Resort (mile markers 48-95) closed along the entire mountain corridor including Coal Bank Pass, Molas Pass and Red Mountain Pass. The southern closure point is located north of Purgatory Ski Resort, near Cascade Creek. The northern closure point is located south of Ouray. Safety closures are weather-dependent with no estimated time of opening.

Other passes closed

Other passes currently closed with no estimated time of opening include:

  • US 285 Poncha Pass
  • CO 17 Cumbres-La Manga Passes
Know before you go

CDOT urges travelers to “know before you go.” Gather information about weather forecasts and anticipated travel impacts and current road conditions before hitting the road. CDOT resources include:

  • Road conditions and travel information: COtrip.org
  • Download the COtrip Planner app: bit.ly/COtripapp
  • Sign up for project or travel alerts: bit.ly/COnewsalerts
  • See scheduled construction lane closures: bit.ly/laneclosures
  • Connect with @ColoradoDOT on social media: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.