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Driver crashes into sinkhole north of Cortez

A culvert draining a draw became overwhelmed from snowmelt and two days of rain
A Jeep Wrangler crashed into a sinkhole that formed Wednesday night or early Thursday on County Road P between Roads 21 and 22. There were no serious injuries. (Courtesy of Lewis-Arriola Fire Department)

A man driving in fog early Thursday on Montezuma County Road P north of Cortez said he sensed danger ahead and slowed down but still crashed into a large and deep sinkhole.

No one was injured, said Montezuma County Sheriff Steve Nowlin, adding that it was fortunate he was driving slowly.

The red Jeep Wrangler fell into the sinkhole a little after 4 a.m., said Master Trooper Gary Cutler of the Colorado State Patrol. It measured 25 feet across and 15 feet deep.

Custom Towing pulled the vehicle out. It did not sustain heavy damage, and the man was able to drive away, Cutler said. The vehicle had Louisiana plates.

County Road P is closed between Road 21 and Road 22. Signs direct detours.

The Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office, Lewis-Arriola Fire Department and Montezuma County Road and Bridge responded.

Road and Bridge Manager Rob Englehart said a culvert draining a draw became overwhelmed Wednesday night from snowmelt and two days of rain.

The water washed around the culvert and created a cavity under the road that caused the sinkhole, he said. The hole was dry when the car fell into it.

“He was able to climb out and call it in,” Englehart said.

A driver crashed into this sinkhole on Road P early Thursday. The section of road is closed to allow for repairs. (Courtesy of Montezuma County Road and Bridge)

The culvert did not show any weakness Wednesday and kept water off the paved road, he said.

The sinkhole has since eroded into a trench across the road with flowing water.

The area is being drained so the culvert can be inspected for repairs or replacement, and the road rebuilt. There was no estimated time for the fix, but it will be as soon as possible, Englehart said.

Other issues are emerging around the county from days of rain and rapid melting of above-average snowmelt.

Mar 15, 2023
Flooding closes Colorado Highway 184 north of Cortez

Colorado Highway 184 closed Tuesday near the intersection of U.S. Highway 491 because of backed-up water from a culvert.

Thursday morning, rockfall came down onto Road 31, Dunlap Hill, north of Dolores, Nowlin said. No one was reported injured, but a school bus was delayed about 15 minutes while the debris was removed.

There have been no reports of serious flooding in Dolores, Nowlin said. In April, he plans to fly over the Dolores River to check bridges and flooding hazards.


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