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March 31, 2020

Upper Lake Fork CR30 Reopened 149 to Wager Gulch


Hinsdale County and Town of Lake City officials are cautiously optimistic that the worst of the snowslide danger is now behind us and on the first day of Spring, Wednesday, March 20, began to relax access restrictions which had been placed on significant areas in and around Lake City.
The lessening in restrictions is the result of a review made by a team of avalanche experts — Ben Pritchett, Ethan Green and Mark Mueller from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center — whose Tuesday, March 19, recommendations were immediately implemented by the Hinsdale County Emergency Operations Center.
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According to the avalanche team, snow conditions in a majority of areas in the Lake City area are typical of “risks normally associated with typical high snow years.”
Most significant to residents of the upper Lake Fork south of Lake City is the reopening of County Road 30 to Wager Gulch in the area of the Carson turnoff. Due to continuing avalanche concern, upper portions of CR30 from Wager Gulch to Sherman remain closed.
Prior to Wednesday’s partial reopening of the thoroughfare, the entirely of both CR 30 and CR 20 on Henson Creek had been barricaded and closed to the public since last Tuesday, March 12.
Although restrictions have been eased as of mid-week, unstable snow conditions and snowslides at T-Mountain Gulch and Modoc Creek which block the road, County Road 20 on Henson Creek remains closed at this time.
Lake City Ice Park remains open, with a barricade at the ATV staging area precluding public access beyond that point.
As the result of continuing “hanging snow fields” above Lake City Ski Hill, the ski area remains closed and off limits to the public, together with access to adjacent residences.
The Waterdog Lake Trail on the northern end of the Ball Flats also remains closed to the public due to snow conditions.
Stabilizing snow conditions indicated by the presence of 10 to 20 percent dirt in specific areas plus “pockmarking” indicating the snow is subsiding have also resulted in removal of mandatory and voluntary evacuation orders for all residents — including Matterhorn Motel and First Baptist Church — on the west side of Bluff Street in the Town of Lake City.
Mandatory evacuation for residents of Monte Queen Subdivision were allowed to return to their homes on Wednesday as the previous mandatory evacuation order was downgraded and the Monte Queen area designated an “Area of Concern.”
Also reopened as of Wednesday, March 20, is public access along Alpine Street to Water Tower Hill, and restrictions have been removed for residents of T-Mountain Addition on the Ball Flats.
Following a structural assessment of their snow-damaged home on Tuesday, Carol Robinson and Schuyler Denham have been allowed to return to their Lake City Heights residence and on Wednesday were making arrangements to have snow incrementally shoveled off their roof and away from the back side of the dwelling.
For snowslide experts and the average public, an oft-repeated mantra repeated in recent days if that snowslide activity will be reduced if three environmental conditions are avoided – rain or snow events, and warm nighttime temperatures.
Nighttime temperatures have thankfully remained cold over the past few days and little rain or snow precipitation has been recorded.
County Commissioners Susan Thompson and Kristie Borchers, the latter serving in the dual capacity as PIO (Public Information Officer) for the county’s Emergency Operations Center, breathed a sigh of relief Tuesday morning as a result of the lessening snow danger.
Added to this, their compatriot on the county EOC, Regional Emergency Manager Drew Peterson, briefly looked up from the laptop computer he was scrutinizing to predict that the potential for snow accumulation on Thursday, March 21, is minimal.
According to Borchers, snowslide concerns still remain in certain areas of the region, although the focus now will be a gradual shift to high water which may occur later this spring.
Tara Tafi of Colorado Division Reclamation, Mining & Safety, and Colorado Dept. of Public Health & Environment’s Mark Rudolph will also have their eyes on the Lake City area watershed as they periodically monitor water quality.
Last week’s thunderous avalanches were an “eyeopener,” says Borchers, as a result of their intensity and the fact the slowslides occurred in areas which had previously not been prone to slides. Avalanche chutes are now both longer and bigger, she says, and will be monitored in future snow years. Most immediate will be better signage informing the public on the location of specific avalanche.
Borchers warns that while a majority of the larger snowslides have now run, residents and visitors to the Lake City should be aware that smaller slides — a “typical spring occurrence” — will predictably still occur as Lake City and environs enter the spring season.
“But hopefully,” she adds, “we’ve seen the worst of it.”

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