ZION NATIONAL PARK —The Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway that connects state Route 9 between Springdale and Mt. Carmel Junction is temporarily closed due to falling rock debris.
A continuous stream of heavy sand and rock debris is falling near the west tunnel entrance along the highway, Zion National Park spokesperson John Marciano said in statement released Friday afternoon.
“It’s actually been falling since early this morning, and has gotten so bad that tourists have had to use their windshield wipers to clear their windshield so they can see,” Marciano said in an interview with St. George News.
After assessing the falling debris park officials decided to close the area until hazard geologists from the Utah Geological Survey arrive at the site and are able to evaluate the area further, he said.
“We have quite a bit of snow melting and we had freezing temperatures just two nights ago,” Marciano said, “so as the air warms the rocks and dirt they begin to swell and everything starts to shift.”
Marciano said the shifting of earth and rock can be so unsettling that it loosens and begins to fall to the ground, which is what appears to be happening now.
The roads will reopen once the falling debris has ceased and officials determine that the area is safe.
“It’s more of a precaution to close the roads right now, and it’s always better to error on the side of caution,” Marciano said.
Alternate east and west routes are available via state Route 59 from Hurricane to Fredonia, Arizona, and state Route 14 from Cedar City to Long Valley Junction and Highway 89.
Visitors may access the Park by traveling east on state Route 9 from Interstate 15.
All Park facilities including the visitor center, museum, campgrounds and shuttle buses are open and operating as normal in Zion Canyon. The Kolob Canyons facilities and Kolob Terrace remain open.
Visitors to the park should be extra cautious this time of year, Marciano said in an earlier interview, as saturation remains a concern and further slides are possible throughout the park.
Road condition updates will be provided on the park website and social media outlets. The park’s short range radio broadcast systems at Mt. Carmel Junction, Hurricane and both park entrances will also broadcast the status of the closure.
This report is based on preliminary information provided by park officials and may not contain the full scope of findings.
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