ST. GEORGE – Road conditions throughout the St. George and Southern Utah region improved by the hour Sunday, as sun melted the snow and ice from heavy snowfall Saturday. Crews of many agencies, cities and local contractors worked together to clear main routes of travel and address road and highway related concerns.
In St. George, city crews were out late Saturday and early Sunday with large equipment, including front-end loaders and graders, and putting down sand to help give vehicles traction, Marc Mortensen, assistant to the city manager, said. Local contractors joined in the effort to clear the steeper streets that had presented the greatest problems for vehicles to ascend Saturday night.
Utah Department of Transportation stepped in with help Saturday night and Sunday, clearing routes under its jurisdiction – Bluff Street, Sunset Boulevard and St. George Boulevard, for example. And then, throughout the day Sunday, UDOT helped address many of the city’s streets as well, UDOT Roadway Operations Manager Todd Abbott said.
“We have two plow masters clearing Foremaster,” Abbott said on Sunday afternoon, “two plow operators on River Road all the way to Southern Parkway, River Road looks great, Dixie Drive all the way to Valley View is great, right now we’re on 1450 South pushing the road back.”
SunTran bus service was suspended when roads became unsafe for the busses Saturday night. But the SunTran service is scheduled to resume normal operation and routes on Monday, Mortensen said.
Interstate 15 had been cleared from the Utah-Arizona state line all the way to Cedar City, Abbott said midday Sunday, and there were no difficulties on I-15 through the Black Ridge during the night. The Black Ridge had been a problem area earlier in the day Saturday, when a semitrailer jack-knifed and blocked southbound traffic for the better part of four hours.
Arizona Highway Patrol’s resources were stretched Saturday as one of three patrolmen on duty for the Arizona Strip accompanied a family to the hospital, leaving two patrolmen at the Gorge. AHP and emergency responders were further tapped when an incoming call alerted them to a rollover in the Gorge – a rollover that they decided must have rather been a slide-out that recovered, AHP Sgt. John Bottoms said, as an extensive search through the Gorge was made for a rollover vehicle producing nothing. And then the first semitrailer jack-knifed and the dominoes began to fall, ultimately ending in complete closure of Interstate 15 through the Arizona Strip until midday Sunday. See related posts below for the full story.
But AHP did get help from other agencies by Sunday. UDOT took one snow plow to the strip to help clear the Interstate and manage traffic control in the Virgin River Gorge where hundreds of vehicles had been blocked in through the night. Washington County Search and Rescue teams went and helped meet the needs of people in vehicles, assisted with semitrailers getting chained and redirected and the like. And Utah Highway Patrol gave assistance with traffic control Sunday.
Hurricane City had no major accidents Saturday night but did have its share of slide-offs and one minor accident, Hurricane City Police Sgt. Brandon Buell said. The less-travelled roads were still icy at 10 a.m. Sunday but the main roads were mostly warmed up and clear, he said. Only one road closure was required in Hurricane Saturday and into Sunday at 600 North between 870 West and 2260 West, Buell said, due to its steep incline combined with icy conditions.
State Route 9 did not require any closure or bad spots through the snow storm episode that he was aware of, Buell said. There had been no issues on the state highway as of 11 a.m. Sunday.
Local cities and snow plows – or the lack thereof
The City of St. George has one snow plow at the municipal airport, as required by the Federal Aviation Administration. It is there for dedicated use at the airport, and was in use through the night Saturday on into Sunday. The city does not have other snow removal equipment.
Some community members have queried why the City of St. George hasn’t invested in snow removal equipment and why it didn’t just rent snow plows from agencies in the vicinity that do have plows.
“Nobody has snow plows for rent,” Abbott said.
“There are none to just rent,” Mortensen said, “every agency is just using them.”
Snowfall and the fallout from it that was experienced through the weekend is a rare event in St. George. Whether the event justifies the expense of investing in a snow plow in anticipation of another such storm is something city officials will explore as the “snow” dust settles.
“We’ve heard from a lot of people who have lived here for their whole life, or a good portion of it – 30, 40, 50 years – and nobody can recall a time when it snowed this much,” Mortensen said, “this is an extremely rare event.”
City officials are now trying to decide whether or not it would be worth the investment to purchase some kind of snow removal equipment, Mortensen said, an attachable plow, for example.
The cost of just a snow plow, truck and sander could run between $120,000 and $200,000, Abbott said. “So, it’s hard to justify,” he said.
Washington City does not have snow plows, Washington City Police spokesman Ed Kantor said. It did have salters on the back of trucks to address slick spots, and road graders were used on the bad areas.
Hurricane City has no snow removal equipment, Buell said.
As the snow melts and roads clear, drivers are reminded that roads can be slippery and dangerous with “black ice” even when road surfaces may appear dry. UDOT’s winter driving tips urge drivers to take take it slow when approaching intersections, off-ramps, bridges or shady areas, all of which are hot spots for black ice.
- Gorge closure; people stranded overnight recount experiences
- Sunny day after the snow; STGnews Photo Gallery
- St. George Municipal Airport is open, SkyWest-Delta flights resume operation
- News short: I-15 through Virgin River Gorge is open
- Movement in The Gorge for those in gridlock, closure remains in effect
- Local churches cancel Sunday services, observing public safety warnings
- Breaking News: I-15 through The Gorge completely closed, evacuation plan
- Northbound I-15 through the Gorge is closed, semitrailers stuck
- News short: UHP reopens all SB lanes through Black Ridge, I-15
- Dixie cities not equipped for snow removal, icy roads impassable; avoid driving
- I-15 incidents Millard south through AZ Strip; SB lanes closed on the Black Ridge
- Semitrailer jack-knifes on I-15, lanes blocked
- Snow incidents SR-18; photo gallery
- Minor slide-offs, accidents on I-15, heavy snowfall in the Gorge
- STGnews Photo Gallery: Let it Snow
- Winter Storm Warning: Statewide snow, gusty winds, road alerts
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