Rabbit Ears Pass reopens, residents return to homes after chemical spill (with video)
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — U.S. Highway 40 over Rabbit Ears Pass was closed at around 1 p.m. Tuesday due to a chemical spill. By 6:40 p.m., the highway was opened to alternating lanes of traffic.
According to the Routt County Sheriff’s Office, a vehicle crash resulted in a chemical spill on the highway between mileposts 140 and 141, close to the base of the pass south of Steamboat Springs. A west-bound semi with a box trailer crossed into the east-bound lane of traffic and rolled approximately 75 feet down the embankment landing on its roof against some trees, according to county officials.
The driver, who was later transported to UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center, identified the chemical as methanol, a type of alcohol that is mostly used to create fuel, solvents and antifreeze. It is a colorless liquid, flammable and poisonous for human consumption. The truck was carrying about 38,000 pounds of the substance.
According to the hazmat technicians, most of the leaked methanol had either soaked into the ground or evaporated.
Immediately following the spill, an evacuation was ordered for Timbers Preserves, a subdivision near the area. The order was lifted at 6:20 p.m., and residents were allowed to return to their homes. It was estimated about 88 homes were affected by the evacuation.
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A Colorado State Patrol hazardous material team was called to the scene and was still at work Tuesday evening.
Agencies responding to the scene included Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue, Colorado State Patrol, Colorado State Patrol Haz-Mat, Craig Fire Rescue Haz-Mat, Steamboat Springs Police Department, Routt County Sheriff’s Office and Routt County Office of Emergency Management.
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The Muddy Slide Fire is now 100% contained, ending the months-long fire that was sparked by an afternoon lightning strike June 20.