SOUTHERN UTAH – Heavy snowfall Monday morning into the early afternoon took many Southern Utah residents by surprise. While many were enjoying the falling flurries, others were dealing with the cleanup left in the wake of the storm that blanketed the desert, closing roads and resulting in several collisions.
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Incidents on Utah Interstates and Highways
The snowfall caused at least eight vehicles to slide off the roadway in the St. George and Hurricane City areas, Utah Department of Transportation Roadway Operations Manager Todd Abbott said, which resulted in several vehicles being towed.
“People were driving too fast for conditions,” Abbott said.
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At approximately 1:15 a.m., UDOT crews were called out to begin clearing the roadways, primarily between mileposts 32 and 42, Abbott said.
The heavy snowfall caused several semitrailers to stop and become stuck in traffic, Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Jake Hicks said.
At approximately 8:30 a.m., a semitrailer jack-knifed on northbound Interstate 15, near milepost 35, blocking traffic, he said.
“We had quite a bit of standing traffic for about 45 minutes,” Hicks said, “until we could get chains on semitrucks and get that other truck unstuck from being jack-knifed.”
Just prior to the semitrailer incident on I-15, another semitrailer and a school bus slid off state Route 59, at the top of a hill near mile marker 20, closing the road completely until the vehicles could be pulled out.
“The storm was kind of hit and miss in some areas,” Hicks said. “I noticed, driving the freeway, the area of Leeds wasn’t as bad as, like, Washington City and St. George; so I know we saw several inches down here (and) a few crashes but they were minor crashes.”
Hicks said there were a couple of minor property damage crashes but no major injuries were reported.
“For the most part, at this time, the bulk of the storm has left Southern Utah,” Abbott said. “There is a little bit of a storm left that is supposed to hit us tonight, overnight, but then that’ll break up and break way to partly cloudy skies. We have a 60 percent chance of snow tonight, primarily north of the Hurricane area along I-15 up onto Blackridge, so chances are we will be out plowing snow.”
According to the National Weather Service, a “Hazardous Weather Outlook” is in effect for the western two-thirds of Utah, including Dixie and Zion National Park.
The ongoing winter storm continues across Southern Utah, according to the NWS. The brunt of the storm is waning across the western valleys, but snow rates remain significant across south-central and southeast Utah into Monday night.
Safety tips to remember when driving in snow and ice
Both Hicks and Abbott recommended drivers slow down and increase their following distance so drivers have more time to stop than normal.
“We really encourage the use of seatbelts that will help protect your life,” Hicks said. “Even if you’re doing everything right, the person next to you might not be, and if they happen to crash into you, you want your best protection which is your safety belt.”
Drivers should also avoid heavy breaking and heavy acceleration, he said, and take extra precaution when driving under the over passes where there can be more ice.
“I think what people underestimate the most is the amount of travel following distance they need,” Hicks said. “It’s so critical because things happen suddenly and you can’t stop what you’re used to stopping in that kind of distance.”
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kimberly Scott is a lifetime resident of Southern Utah. In 2013, Kimberly joined St. George News as a vital member of its editing, reporting and administrative team. She is passionate about engaging communities through writing and is dedicated to providing complete and accurate coverage of both anticipated and breaking news.