2 dozen slide-offs, crashes reported in wake of winter storm

SOUTHERN UTAH — Nearly two dozen crashes, slide-offs and disabled vehicles were reported on Interstate 15 in Southern Utah Thursday evening thanks to a winter storm that delivered blasts of rain, hail, ice and snow to much of the state.

The storm that blew through Washington County and beyond kept emergency responders, officers and Utah Department of Transportation crews busy assisting drivers and clearing roads well into the early morning hours Friday.

A winter storm warning affecting central and Southern Utah issued Thursday afternoon advised residents of a snow-ice mix in the forecast. Motorists who ventured onto the interstate were caught in the storm. Some drivers  pulled to the side of the interstate to wait out the worst of the storm front while others pulled over to clear the accumulating snow from their windshields before venturing down the road.

Heavy snowfall made travel difficult for semitractor-trailer drivers as well who were advised to put snow chains on tires before continuing north.

UDOT crews worked throughout the night plowing the interstate, highways and roadways throughout Washington County, Todd Abbott, Utah Department of Transportation roadway operations manager, said. Roads were wet but clear by Friday morning.

Abbott also said that thanks to the efforts of several crews the interstate and state highways in Southern Utah continued moving throughout the night and no major road closures were reported.

A UDOT video, “Thanks Snow Much” showing storm footage and messages from the public can be seen here.

Severe weather can be dangerous for automobile travel. Authorities are urging motorists to check their vehicles for roadworthiness and to slow down. A complete winter driving safety checklist can be found from AAA by clicking here.

Another storm is due to impact much of the state Sunday and will continue through early next week, bringing heavy rains and significant mountain snowfall across the northern and central parts of Utah, the National Weather Service said early Friday.

Read more: Weather outlook a wet mix across the state; Saturday road alerts

The heavy rains that accompanied the storm as it moved through Zion National Park on Thursday caused four separate rock slides between 4 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. The quick succession of rock slides kept Park employees and crew members busy as they worked through torrential rain and bitter cold to clear debris, park spokesman John Marciano said.

The first rock slide was at the Emerald Pools Trail and two hours later another slide was reported near the Grotto Trail, he said.

The torrential downpour also added to the amount of water coming off of the cliffs and mountains and by Thursday evening there were between 15 and 25 waterfalls, Marciano said.

According to park authorities, all roadways leading into the park are currently open, however trail closures are still in effect including the trail at the Lower Emerald Pools. The Upper and Middle Emerald Pools remain accessible via the Kayenta Trail.

Thanks to the efforts of park employees and crews who are committed to maintaining access to the park and ensuring safety for park guests, Zion National Park remained open, Marciano said. Even in the midst of severe weather visitors could be seen taking pictures of waterfalls created by the downpour, he added.

In a statement released Friday by the National Park Service, visitors should expect and be prepared for winter conditions within Zion National Park. Trails will be icy and often snow-packed with the potential for deep snow drifts and slides at higher elevations.

This report is based on preliminary information provided by law enforcement, other emergency responders and park personnel and may not contain the full scope of findings.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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