CDOT tests highway avalanche conditions on Grand Mesa

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GRAND MESA, Colo. Avalanche experts blasted cliffs on the Grand Mesa Thursday to make sure the area is safe for drivers.

"We basically would like to remove the snow before it's a possible risk to the highway, so that's why we do these missions," said Rob Hunker, an avalanche forecaster for Colorado Department of Transportation.

It was CDOT's first avalanche control mission of the season off Highway 65.

Workers shot 20 grenades at designated spots on the cliffs to see if the weaker layers of the snowpack would give out.

Even though there's 44 inches of snow in the area right now, the highway avalanche risk is low and the blasts confirmed the predictions.

"During stability tests out in the field, we really haven't gotten it to react and fail," Hunker said. "This is our first control mission of the season and this is a good test mission to see if that weak layer would fail or not."

A portion of Highway 65 was shutdown starting at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The area is now open to drivers again.

CDOT hosts five to nine avalanche control missions on the Grand Mesa every year depending on the amount of snowfall, which is lower than average right now.

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