Calls spike for first responders as Rainbow Gathering collides with interstate closure, heavy holiday traffic

Between the busy holiday traffic, a closure of Interstate 70 east at Glenwood Springs and an exodus of the Rainbow Family, the need for police and medical services rose significantly on Thursday, July 7.

The Steamboat Springs Police Department received 51 calls on Thursday, a high number compared to the previous days when the department received a little over 30 calls each day.

“(Thursday) was extremely busy,” said Sgt. Evan Noble of the Steamboat Springs Police Department, adding the most likely cause was the sheer number of people in town. 

An overturned semi-truck at the Glenwood Springs exit closed I-70 Thursday morning, and the route didn’t reopen until 4:22 p.m. Traffic was diverted through Steamboat Springs, and the effects could be felt by anyone trying to drive along Lincoln Avenue.

Despite the increased traffic, calls for automobile-related incidents were on par with the rest of the week, according to Sgt. Noble.

Both the Steamboat Police Department and Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue have kept a running tally on the number of incidents involving people affiliated with the 50th Annual Rainbow Gathering in North Routt County at Adams Park from July 1-7.

Many of the people who attended the Rainbow Gathering, which attracted as many as 10,000 people to a remote area of Routt County, either hitchhiked or secured rides using online resources. As far back as July 4, at the gathering itself, people could be seen holding signs soliciting for rides from the other gatherers. 

On Thursday, Steamboat Springs police responded to three calls involving individuals believed to be affiliated with the Rainbow Gathering. 

Of those, only one was confirmed as being connected to the Rainbow Gathering, while the other two were assumed to be connected based on observations made by the responding officers. 

The confirmed case involved a couple of people who were allegedly asking for money outside of a grocery store and told officers they had been at the gathering for the past several days. The responding officers didn’t write a citation but did instruct them to leave the premises. 

Another possible incident involved a woman who was walking naked around 10 a.m. near Steamboat Boulevard and Mt Werner Road. Steamboat Fire Rescue determined she was intoxicated and transported her to the hospital.

Both the Steamboat police department and the fire district acknowledged their methods for tallying the number of interactions with those tied to the Rainbow Gathering are imprecise and often based on observations made by the responding officers, firefighters and medical personnel. 

Both Sgt. Noble and Fire Chief Chuck Cerasoli said they were reluctant to draw any conclusions from the numbers so far.

Brad Parrott of the West Routt Fire Protection District said his staff has seen an uptick in calls for service, including a medical response for an overdose that required someone be flown out by Classic Air Medical. 

On Thursday, Parrot and his staff responded to two medical calls from the gathering area. According to Parrot, there are still lots of cars parked near Adams Park, which may be the case for several weeks or longer.

Overall, Steamboat Police have not observed an increased frequency of violent crimes or thefts attributed to those connected with the Rainbow Gathering. 

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