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Operation Safe Roads: Reasons behind closing Catalina Highway

Posted at 9:11 PM, Jan 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-02 23:14:49-05

TUCSON, Ariz. - Catalina Highway has been closed four out of the last five days.

Pima County Sheriff's officials say there are several factors behind the road closure, more than just heavy snow and ice.

"And the heavy equipment has to go on both sides of the road to clear the snow off. And if we open the road up, a lot of traffic going up there could get stuck behind the heavy equipment, or the plows might not be able to do their job, and would keep the roads closed longer," Deputy James Allerton said.

Allerton says the mountain stays closed during times like this because of resources.

For example, when there's a medical emergency, usually Rural Metro is able to meet Mount Lemmon Fire halfway up the mountain. But when there's ice and snow, Rural Metro isn't able to make it up.

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"So the Mount Lemmon Fire Department would have to come all the way down the mountain to bring someone to the hospital if there's a medical emergency," Allerton said.

On top of keeping roadways clear, deputies work to clear parking areas on the mountain. Allerton says in the past, people have parked in the middle of the roadway and blocked access for other people.

For now, Catalina Highway is open to just employees and residents. Call PCSD at 520-547-7510 to see when the road reopens.