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Rock slide closes I-70 in Colorado

No injuries, but road could be closed up to a week

Boulders tumbled onto Interstate 70, closing a portion of the road indefinitely.
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Watch as rocks tumble onto Interstate 70 in Colorado.

(CNN) -- A stretch of Interstate 70 in western Colorado was closed indefinitely Thursday after what officials called a "very severe" rock slide, forcing motorists to take a detour of more than 200 miles.

The slide occurred at 7:42 a.m., about nine miles east of Glenwood Springs in Glenwood Canyon, officials from the Colorado Department of Transportation said. Glenwood Springs is about halfway between Vail and Grand Junction.

Authorities closed east- and westbound lanes for a 17-mile stretch and said it could be a week before the road reopens.

Workers could be seen using dynamite on large boulders and jackhammers on others as they started to clear the road.

"It's very severe," said department spokeswoman Nancy Shanks. "There's some big rocks that have come down."

Between 30 and 40 large rocks tumbled onto the road, including boulders up to 8 feet by 10 feet, according to a department statement.

An engineer at the scene said one boulder was the size of a van. The slide zone was estimated to be up to 100 feet long and 8 to 10 feet deep.

No one was on that portion of the interstate when the slide occurred, and no one was injured, Shanks said.

The slide caused major damage to both sides of the interstate, including two eastbound bridge decks that had holes punched into them, authorities said.

"It is estimated that about a half-dozen boulders are embedded between 6 and 8 feet into the roadway," Shanks said.

"Additionally, two retaining wall panels along the westbound lanes have been completely knocked out. Other roadway and guardrail damage has also occurred."

State DOT engineers were en route to the area Thursday to examine the bridge damage and assess structural integrity, according to the statement.

A department geologist was also summoned to examine the rock slope, which may still be unstable.

Recommended detours would take motorists more than 200 miles out of their way, Shanks said. "You have to go way up north or way down south."

The closing came during one of the busiest travel periods of the year.

Americans traveling for Thanksgiving were expected to brave crowds above pre-9/11 levels for the first time since the attacks, according to a AAA travel club survey. (Full story)

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