Breaking News: I-15 through The Gorge completely closed, evacuation plan

ARIZONA STRIP – Arizona Highway Patrol is closing Interstate 15 both northbound and southbound through the Virgin River Gorge at midnight Saturday, MST.  Vehicles caught in gridlock in the gorge will be evacuated one at a time once the closures are in place.

There is no current estimate of when the Interstate will be reopened to travel.

Earlier Saturday night, northbound traffic was closed to I-15 passage through the Gorge  due to two semitrailers being stuck in an icy stretch between Arizona mile posts 23 and 26, about seven miles from the Utah state line. See full story here.

Since that closure, two more semitrailers have collided, Arizona Highway Patrol Sgt. John Bottoms said.

A tanker truck carrying diesel fuel collided with another 18-wheeler semitrailer, Bottoms said. Although there was no rupture or fuel spill, one or more of the vehicles slid off the road.

“We’re shutting down I-15 through the entire Arizona Strip,” Bottoms said, “it’s too dangerous.”

I-15 southbound will likely be closed at Black Rock Road inside the Arizona Strip, Bottoms said, as Utah doesn’t have the resources to effect the closure at Utah’s mile post 2 on I-15.

I-15 northbound will likely be closed at the Beaver Dam – Littlefield exit in Arizona, Bottoms said, as Nevada Highway Patrol is not likely to have the resources to close I-15 at this hour either.

Once all traffic is stopped at either end of the Gorge, Bottoms said that AHP will begin with the last vehicle in the line of vehicles backed up in the Gorge, turn it around and escort it in reverse direction out of the Gorge. The process of turning vehicles around one by one will take hours, he said. Further, it will be impossible to turn around the 18-wheeler semitrailers and it remains to be seen whether they will be able to get all of the other vehicles out from around them.

There is no cell service in much of the Gorge, Bottoms said, so people stuck there will not be able to communicate electronically by phone, social media or otherwise. In the event any successful contact is made, people should be advised to stay in their cars, sit tight and wait for assistance.

No provisions have been made yet for supplies, hot chocolate, blankets, and the like, to meet the needs of those stuck in light of the weather conditions, Bottoms said.

“I am reaching out to my district commander for help,” Bottoms said.

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

GORGE-CLOSED

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18 Comments

  • Melinda Goodwin December 8, 2013 at 1:28 am

    The Dixie High School and Desert Hills High School wrestlers school bus is stranded in the middle of that mess..

  • Melinda Goodwin December 8, 2013 at 1:55 am

    Pineview and Dixie High wrestlers, not Desert Hills..

  • Trish December 8, 2013 at 2:48 am

    What about those stuck in the gorge who have run out of gas?

  • brittania December 8, 2013 at 5:45 am

    Does anyone know if the back way though Ivins is still open?

  • Childers Family December 8, 2013 at 6:05 am

    Checking to see if there is an update on how the evacuation is going? Have they been able to get the north and south bound cars out of the gorge?

  • Sarah December 8, 2013 at 7:16 am

    Any idea when they will reopen it today?

  • Zeke December 8, 2013 at 9:26 am

    Heard Pine View-Dixie wrestlers were stuck on a bus in gorge for 9 hours coming home from match in Las Vegas. I’ll bet that was a fun evening.

  • anna December 8, 2013 at 9:50 am

    do u know when it will open again will it open today

  • laytonian December 8, 2013 at 10:00 am

    “Hot chocolate” is a provision?

    How about we all grow up, and give stranded travelers what they really want: HOT COFFEE.

    • Teri December 9, 2013 at 12:27 pm

      Can’t stand coffee. Give me hot chocolate any day over coffee.

  • Kent Coulson December 8, 2013 at 10:20 am

    We were near the top and someone built a snowman 🙂 I do want to acknowledge the young lady who filled her bag with snacks and walked back looking for people with kids who might be in need. It is times like these that restore your faith in humanity and make you want to be a better person. Other than that it was a long night sitting in the car.

  • Cindy December 8, 2013 at 11:54 am

    To all of the travelers stranded….my daughter has a Toyota Matrix. They were able to take Old Hwy 91 from Mesquite to St George. Took almost two hours but they made it. They, too, sat at the top of the gorge for 8 hours…all night long. I don’t know if any of the people involved will see this, but thank you to everyone who assisted them throughout the night and morning. She said that all of the people helping each other was amazing to see.

  • hiway280z December 8, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    I will say it is a beautiful drive through there. I would hate to be stuck there. Advice is if your traveling anywhere in winter make sure you have snacks, water and blankets and of course a full tank of gas. Be prepared always.

  • Lori Bigler December 8, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    I’m glad they closed the road, but they should have made the cars turn around and go back to the city for safety and lodging. Its dangerous to sit in your car all night in freezing temperatures unless you have tons of gas and blankets, etc.

    • bps December 9, 2013 at 9:35 am

      They didn’t have the option to turn around and go back, that is the problem that they are facing.

  • Lori Bigler December 8, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    @Cindy….Oh that’s neat to hear. Someone else made the comment that no one even checked on them so I was bothered by that, but it sounds like that wasn’t the case.

    It would have been really good if the inns in St. George had opened up all their empty rooms and just charged a nominal fee for the gorge travelers.

  • Teri December 9, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    I don’t live in the area but I’m very familiar with the St George area. I am surprised the freeway was not closed in light of the lack of resources and turn a rounds in the canyon. The roads in the St George area were bad and should have indicated a closure was necessary. Someone made the decision to keep it open, despite the risky conditions. Had they had the manpower and equipment to make the road safer, it would have been a different matter. Someone made the decision to keep the road open rather than err on the side of safety.

    That said, I live in an area of California with ice and snow. My husband still makes me feel like I’m ridiculous when I put my down blanket in the car, as well as plenty of snacks and water. Better safe than sorry.

  • Erika Whitney December 11, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    I don’t know where the people who got checked on and received food were in line but my husband and I didn’t receive either we were stuck for 12 hours in the gorge I am four months pregnant which made matters worse because we had no food or heat. I was appalled at the way this situation was handled we couldn’t sleep because we had no clue when we would move again, so we tried to keep alert. You can’t just shut down a road and not make sure you have contacted everyone involved!

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