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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