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CDOT warns about undetonated bombs from avalanche mitigation

Shots were in rugged terrain, but CDOT says public should be aware
The Colorado Department of Transportation says that about 13 of the some 630 explosives used in avalanche mitigation this winter in southwestern and south-central Colorado did not explode.

If you come across what looks like an explosive device in the San Juan Mountains this summer, don’t touch it.

The Colorado Department of Transportation is getting the word out that some explosives used in avalanche mitigation this past winter were duds. As a result, the potentially explosive bombs still sit somewhere in the mountains.

In CDOT’s southwest and south-central regions, more than 630 explosives were shot or dropped from helicopters to trigger avalanches this winter.

More specifically, about 430 explosives were shot on Red Mountain, Coal Bank and Molas passes, with the majority of that amount on Red Mountain Pass, CDOT spokeswoman Lisa Schwantes said.

More than 65 explosives were shot on Lizard Head Pass, more than 130 on Wolf Creek Pass, and about 50 on Monarch, Cumbres and La Manga passes.

Of the 630 explosives, 13 were duds. Schwantes said CDOT does not give out the specific locations of where the explosives were shot for public safety reasons.

Statewide, more than 1,500 explosives, including 22 duds, were shot at avalanche paths.

Schwantes said the numbers are in line with the national average of about 1 percent chance of a bomb not exploding.

She said CDOT knows exactly where every explosive was shot, and crews will attempt to revisit the region and recover duds.

Most of the shots are aimed at rugged and remote terrain, Schwantes said, in areas not accessed by the average hiker.

“It’s not unknown for someone to come across a device that has not detonated, but they are in very rugged terrain,” she said. “We don’t want to scare anyone, but at the same time, we want to advise the public of the best safety instructions.”

Shots from a howitzer look like a huge bullet, Schwantes said, and rounds from CDOT’s “ava-launcher” are shaped more like a torpedo and usually are bright orange or yellow.

People who come across the explosive device are advised not to touch it and immediately report its whereabouts to law enforcement or CDOT.

jromeo@durangoherald.com

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