Storm causes headaches for Utah, Arizona travelers


ST. GEORGE, Utah — A storm dropped heavy snow along the Utah-Arizona border, leaving hundreds of travelers stranded on Interstate 15 overnight into Sunday and shutting down the airport and public bus system in St. George.

The Arizona Highway Patrol said passengers in about 300 vehicles became stranded after up to 10 inches of snow and slick road conditions prompted the closure of part of the highway Saturday night.

Emergency crews worked through the night to bring food and blankets to stranded motorists, and the section of the interstate between St. George and Mesquite, Nev., was reopened around noon Sunday, The Spectrum of St. George reported.

AHP spokesman Bart Graves said numerous accidents and medical issues were reported, but there no immediate reports of serious injuries.

Darrell Cashin, spokesman for the Washington County sheriff’s search and rescue team, compared the ice-covered roadways to an ice-skating rink.

“Even semi-trucks with chains on them were sliding around,” he told The Spectrum.

Nearby St. George received 6 inches of snow, helping to make it one of the snowiest Decembers there in more than a century, according to the National Weather Service.

Weather service forecaster Christine Kruse said St. George has seen an inch or more of snow during December only 19 times since record keeping began there 115 years ago. With two such snowfalls in the past week, that makes it the city’s third highest frequency of inch-plus accumulations in over a century.

The snow prompted the closure of St. George Municipal Airport and St. George’s SunTran bus system on Saturday night, and the postponement of Dixie State University’s annual Christmas concert. The airport reopened on Sunday morning.

Zion National Park in southern Utah received 8.5 inches of snow, its fourth highest 24-hour snow total since record keeping began in 1904, according to the weather service.

Snow fell across much of Utah and prompted requirements for motorists to install chains on tires or ride with snow tires on highways.

As of early Saturday night, there were over 150 property-damage crashes in Utah, Davis and Weber counties, as well as in southern Utah, the Deseret News reported. Fourteen wrecks caused injuries.

“The most severe was a broken knee,” Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Lawrence Hopper said.

 

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