How weather, long lines of cars can impact road closures on Catalina Highway

Winter weather at Mount Lemmon
Published: Feb. 2, 2022 at 7:02 AM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Preparations are underway for winter weather across southern Arizona, and lots of eyes are looking to see what that means for Mount Lemmon and Catalina Highway.

At last check, the road is open, but that could change as winter weather is predicted for Wednesday evening, Feb. 2.

Pima County road crews said they close the road up the mountain for several reasons, but the big one is safety. The steep drop-offs, and twisty turns can become even more dangerous when the road is covered in snow or ice. Sometimes crews must work overnight to get the road open after a large weather event.

“Whether it be winter storms or monsoon storms bring on inclement weather, things we have to deal with,” said Matt Sierras, maintenance operations division manager for PDOT. “Monsoon, we have the rains and high winds that bring debris into the roadway. We also have rocks from landslides. During the winter storms, we have snow and ice which need to be removed from not only the roadway but the various parking areas up there on Mount Lemmon.”

Sierras said parking on the mountain can become a problem when the road is open. When there are long lines of people waiting on Catalina Highway, the sheriff’s deputies will monitor traffic depending on the number of spots open.

“It’s a popular destination a lot of the time, and a lot of the times parking up there is at capacity which means they have to close down the road,” Sierras said.

It can be a problem for people who work or live on the mountain. Sierras said there are emergency crews on top of the mountain, but long lines of people can be a problem for emergency crews on the ground as well.

“Drivers can be as proactive as possible by contacting the Sheriff’s Department road closure hotline. That will let them know what the road conditions are prior to travel,” Sierras said.

The hotline is: (520) 547-7510. KOLD News 13′s app also sends out push alert notifications when conditions on the road change.

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