ARIZONA STRIP – Vehicles stuck in gridlock through the night on Interstate 15 in Virgin River Gorge of the Arizona Strip are moving slowly northbound and Arizona Highway Patrol is no longer turning cars around to evacuate them in a southbound direction.
The sun is starting to melt some of the snow, the 18-wheeler semi-trailers are chained up and starting to move, helping to break up the ice on the road and traffic is moving, very very slowly Arizona Highway Patrol Sgt. John Bottoms said.
The AHP will not open the Interstate at Beaver Dam and Utah for north and southbound incoming traffic until the road will permit people to travel safely, Bottoms said. While he could not give an estimate, he said that the AHP hopes to be able to reopen the freeway by noon.
The Interstate was entirely closed to northbound and southbound traffic Sunday at 1 a.m. MST due to snow and ice conditions combined with 18-wheeler semitrailers sliding and colliding. See full story on the initial northbound closure here, and on the complete northbound-southbound closure here.
During the night, Arizona Highway Patrol evacuated countless vehicles, one by one and at one point in a group of 30, for example, as they were able to get them out of the gridlock, turned around and escorted out of the gorge southbound.
Because of 18-wheeler semitrailers interspersed in the gridlock, some side-by-side, it was not possible for AHP to get all of the other vehicles out during the night.
“We didn’t get nearly enough out,” Bottoms said.
As this report was published, Bottoms could not estimate the number of cars removed from the Gorge or those remaining.
Ramona Cox of St. George had a grandson on a charter bus, returning the Desert Hills Cross Country team from a meet in San Diego. The last she heard was that the bus left Mesquite at 10:30 p.m. and spent a long night worried about her grandson. This morning she said they had made contact, that “they kept warm and cozy” because it was a charter bus.
Others weren’t so warm and cozy and Bottoms said patrolmen had been trying to tend to people’s needs.
“We have been able to drive multiple patrol cars through to check on people,” Bottoms said. “We’ve been giving out fuel, water, some food and some blankets.”
Patrolmen were able to make contact with everyone stuck in the Gorge through the night, he said, one way or another, whether talking with them directly or through hand signals.
“I flew over the entire scene from Utah to the bottom of the Gorge,” he said. “We are positive that we have driven past every person that has stopped and made contact either by hand gesture or by brief conversation.”
There have been no additional injuries or collisions since the collision that occurred around midnight, Bottoms said. That collision involved a tanker truck carrying diesel fuel and another 18-wheeler semitrailer, there was no breach of the tanker or spill but the semitrailers were sliding off the road creating further blockage.
There have been a number of slide-offs, Bottom said, that have resulted in damage to cars. In some cases, people abandoned their cars as they may have been able to get rides out with other people. Statements from those will be taken by phone, Bottoms said.
The temperature on the roadway surface has come up 9 or 10 degrees this morning, Bottoms said, and as they start to see water it indicates the ice is melting.
“We’re hoping that by noon we will have all lanes open,” he said.
- 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; NB lanes closed on the Black Ridge
- Semitrailer jack-knifes on I-15, lanes blockedSnow incidents SR-18; photo gallery
- Snow incidents SR-18; photo gallery
- Minor slide-offs, accidents on I-15, heavy snowfall in the Gorge
- STGnews Photo Gallery: Let it Snow
- Three injured when I-15 accident causes rollover down embankment
- Winter Storm Warning: Statewide snow, gusty winds, road alerts
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