Rollovers, crashes and ‘too many slide-offs to count’ in wake of snowstorm

The Utah Highway Patrol and UDOT's Incident Management Team respond to single-vehicle crash on I-15 near Exit 8, St. George, Utah, Feb. 21, 2019 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

WASHINGTON COUNTY Motorists faced a myriad of weather-related hazards as continual snowfall Thursday morning brought slippery road conditions to Interstate 15 as well as a number of state highways in Washington County.

Emergency personnel respond to a single-vehicle crash on I-15 near Exit 8, St. George, Utah, Feb. 21, 2019 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

“It’s all hands on deck,” Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Larry Mower said. “Troopers are all down here working – even on their day off.”

By 12:30 p.m. Thursday there had been a number of rollovers and crashes, including a rollover at 7:13 a.m. on state Route 59 at mile marker 11 near Hildale, Mower said. Within an hour, two crashes were reported on state Route 18 about five miles west of St. George near mile marker 10.

Four hours later a crash was reported on the same highway six miles east of Enterprise.

Five crashes were reported along Interstate 15 in Washington and Iron counties along with numerous slide-offs.

“There have been so many slide-offs on I-15. I don’t even know how many but there has been a lot,” Mower said.

The first crash was reported on the northbound side at mile marker 25 about four miles north of Leeds while the second crash was reported on the southbound side at mile marker 47 near Kanarraville.

From there three more crashes were reported at mile marker 56 that involved single vehicles followed by a crash at mile marker 27 near Leeds an hour later.

The fifth crash was reported at Exit 8 in St. George shortly after 11:30 a.m. when a white Toyota Scion lost control on the southbound on-ramp and spun completely around, coming to rest in the No. 2 lane facing oncoming traffic.

A Toyota Scion is towed after a single-vehicle crash on I-15 near Exit 8, St. George, Utah, Feb. 21, 2019 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

“Thankfully that car didn’t spin out any farther or it would likely have been struck by oncoming traffic,” Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Jake Hicks said.

There were issues on the northbound side at mile post 27 near Toquerville where reports of semitractor-trailers pulling off the interstate and stopping either near the ramp area or on the right shoulder.

The drivers were attempting to “wait out the storm” Mower said, instead of chaining up and proceeding north. It created a traffic hazard.

“We’ve had to chase them out of there by telling them this storm isn’t going to end anytime soon,” he said, “We just told them they need to chain up and get on their way.”

As a result of the safety concerns presented by so many semis on the side of the interstate, additional UHP truck inspection troopers were called in to patrol the areas where the trucks were collecting along the roadside.

Overall, there have been few crashes and rollovers, Mower said, which is largely due to the snowy conditions which are preventing motorists from driving at higher speeds and requires them to be more cautious.

Additional troopers will be on hand to respond to crashes and other incidents along Southern Utah’s roadways until the storm passes Friday morning, at which time they will taper off as weather conditions improve.

UDOT crews working nonstop during storm

Mower went on to say UDOT crews have worked hard to keep the roads clear and keep traffic moving, particularly given that severe storms with heavy snowfall are relatively uncommon in Washington County which has stretched the workers and equipment significantly.

Infographic illustrating the various aspects of snow removal operations at UDOT, 2017 | Image courtesy of the Utah Department of Transportation, St. George News

“They’ve done a great job and after working all night they are still out here working all day so we are pretty impressed with those guys.”

UDOT’s snow team consists of more than 480 full-time snowplow drivers that deal with an average of 25 winter storms that hit Utah on any given year. The transportation agency operates on a $26 million dollar budget, which means winter operations come at a cost of about $1 million per storm, UDOT says. 

Crews also dump more than 470 million pounds of salt each year. That includes regular table salt along with three high-performance salts in addition to 1.8 million gallons of salt brine which is used to pre-treat for ice on state roads.

For traffic and road condition updates click here.

This report is based on statements from police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.

Email: cblowers@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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