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Storms, heavy rains shut down portion of I-15 in S. Utah

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Posted at 7:01 PM, Sep 08, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-09 11:44:29-04

SOUTHERN UTAH — Heavy rain and fallen rocks closed Interstate 15 through the Virgin River Gorge.

The closure stranded hundreds of motorists and truck drivers on their way to Las Vegas.

The storm damage stretches far into southern Nevada.

Emergency managers said they expected the remains of tropical storm Norbert Sunday night, but the slow moving system took longer to reach southern Utah.

More rain is on the way.

The weather hit St. George at about 4:30 p.m. Monday.

The storm caused minor flooding in and around Washington County, with Zion National Park, and the Arizona strip being hit the hardest.

“We come up the Interstate and you’ve got trucks backed up,” stranded motorist Keristen Mack said. “We’ve got cops all over the roads.”

Utah Highway Patrol set up the road block.

The gorge closed at about 6:15 p.m. when the rain caused refrigerator-sized boulders to land on the freeway, according UHP.

Farther south, Mesquite and Overton, Nevada reported extreme flooding and widespread power outages. Washington County emergency manager Pete Kuhlmann said they prepared for the worst.

Flooding in Moapa, Nevada, about an hour south of St. George, destroyed a part of I-15, according to a Facebook post by the Red Rock Search and Rescue/Recovery.

The emergency agency reports that I-15 southbound near mile marker 92 is gone.

The northbound lanes are nearly gone as well.

Because of the advanced notice, preparations for the storm started early in St. George.

Monday afternoon residents filled sand bags at St. George’s reuse center.

Assistant City Manager Marc Mortensen said they had crews posted at various points throughout the city, ready to clear drains and help where needed.

“It’s always better to be over prepared in an event like this,” Mortensen said. “In southwestern Utah, we never know where the storm is going to hit, and then the duration of that storm, and how heavy rainfall that may involve.”

Semi trucks and other transportation vehicles lined the frontage roads waiting for I-15 to open back up, but that prospect looked bleak Monday night, as crews still had debris to clear from the canyon, and the rain is forecasted to continue.

Emergency managers are urging residents to take precautions and be aware that flooding may continue.

“If warnings are issued, if you’re in low lying areas, you want to stay out of those,” Kuhlmann said. “Don’t drive across flooded roads, if you’ve had flooding in the past, you might want to look at taking some protected measures.”

At this point there’s no word on when the gorge may open back up.