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Northbound I-15 through the Gorge is closed, semitrailers stuck

ARIZONA STRIP –  A section of Interstate 15 Arizona mile posts 23-26 in the Virgin River Gorge completely iced over Saturday night and is blocked with semitrailers unable to proceed. The gorge is closed to northbound travel indefinitely.

Travelers on I-15 are advised by Arizona Highway Patrol to find lodging in Mesquite until Arizona Department of Transportation clears the Gorge for passable travel.

The situation was precipitated by a single vehicle accident around 6 p.m. Saturday. A Chevrolet pickup carrying three or four people slid off the highway at Arizona mile post 26 (about seven miles from the Arizona-Utah border) into the median and dropped 6-8 feet down an embankment into a drainage culvert.  The roadway got blocked at that point, AHP Sgt. John Bottoms said, when people passing by stopped to try to assist the people in the Chevy pickup. AHP and emergency responders reached the people who were transported with minor injuries to the hospital.

Meanwhile, an 18-wheeler, semitrailer, coming up on the accident then jack-knifed, Bottoms said, further blocking the road and traffic began to back up.

The traffic backup then blocked the snow plows from getting through, Bottoms said, and when the snow system passed, temperatures dropped and the snow turned to ice creating new problems for the semitrailers attempting to proceed at that point.

Two 18-wheeler commercial semitrailers in particular are having difficulties, Bottoms said. Because the section of highway where the ice has formed is on an incline, although the drivers have put chains on the tractors, every time they start to move the trailers behind them start to slide sideways. There is a guard rail that prohibits them from pulling the trailer too far off, Bottoms said. Because it’s an embanked highway, he said, if they pull the trailer too far it will roll off and down into the median and into the southbound lanes. And, Bottoms said, every time they try to move forward they end up blocking more and more of the highway – backing up traffic which further impedes snow plow access.

Getting snow plows to the problem area is critical but precarious. Critical because until the plows can address the iced area with cinders, sand or chemicals to try and melt it, there can be no passage. But given the icy conditions, although one snow plow is attempting to turn around and reach the area by traveling against traffic on the opposite side, there is also a risk of the plow sliding and becoming immobilized.

There is no cell service in that section of the Gorge, Bottoms said.

AHP and ADOT efforts continue through the night, Temperatures continue to drop and additional ice patches may develop.

Those with intended travel through the Gorge might as well stay in Mesquite, Nev., Bottom said.

“I can’t even estimate how long it will take to clear,” he said.

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Email: jkuzmanic@stgnews.com

Twitter: @JoyceKuzmanic

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

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  8 Comments
  1. Brubaker family December 7, 2013 at 11:09 pm · Reply

    Is there any information about people already on the road? Is there a way for North bound travelers to turn around and head back to Mesquite?

  2. Bracken/Cox Family December 8, 2013 at 1:42 am · Reply

    Joyce-we have a son/grandson on a charter bus with Desert Hills High School. They are returning from a San diego cross country meet. Last we heard from our son was around ten thirty leaving Mesquite. Also heard there may be PVHS and DHS wrestling teams returning from Vegas. Do you have any factual updates on these busses and if they will even be able to evacuate them thru the night?

  3. Melinda Goodwin December 8, 2013 at 1:54 am · Reply

    There is no way the school bus carrying Dixie High and Pineview High wrestlers can turn the bus around in the gorge to go back to Mesquite..

  4. Brittinie stark December 8, 2013 at 4:08 am · Reply

    My family has been stuck there since 9pm last night. I have talked to them once via text, it saying we are still here”. And this was at 3 am. I want to know of they’re getting blankets and water? If I can come in and bring them stuff? My mom as her inhaler that I would love for her to have. If you could just let me know. Thank you!

  5. Kristine Twiggs December 8, 2013 at 7:16 am · Reply

    My daughter and two babies have been stranded in the gorge for 8 hours now. I have called the Mesquite Police Dept. who transferred me to the Arizona Highway Dept. who tells me to have her call 911! They say they have no information and no idea of how long it will take to open the road! If this problem started at 6:00 pm on Saturday night why in the world was there not a road block put up to northbound traffic in the Mesquite area! She got stopped in the gorge at 10:30 as she traveled from Phoenix to St. George. It is now 7:10 am on Sunday and they still have no answers. She is running out of gas with two babies in the car while no one seems to know what to do about it.

  6. Robert December 8, 2013 at 7:54 am · Reply

    My sisters and their family have been stuck in the gorge since they closed it last night she just texted me at 7:30 this morning to ask what was going on because she was still their and no one had talked to them. Any news on the reopen?

  7. Erik December 8, 2013 at 1:28 pm · Reply

    I just heard from my in-laws. They said that the cross country athletes donated blankets to them last night because they ran out of gas and we’re shivering in their truck. They are exceedingly grateful for the generosity of those kids to help keep them warm. Big thanks to your relatives.

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