A massive landslide of boulders has covered state Route 14 east of Cedar City in Iron County and will shut the road down for what could be weeks. The slide happened last night, and fortunately, no one was caught in it.
The road is now buried somewhere under all of the boulders, rocks, trees and debris, and road crews are having a hard time digging through it all to find the pavement.
"We're talking an area that is 700, 800 feet long and is covered with 10 to 12 feet of material; rocks, boulders and trees," said Jim McConnell, district engineer for the Utah Department of Transportation.
When the dust began to settle, it was obvious that this was a very powerful and violent event. The boulders tore right through a concrete barrier meant to keep rocks from reaching the highway.
"Some of the larger boulders are in the vicinity of 15 to 20 tons. Some of them we may be able to move with a bull dozer; others we may have to blast down to a manageable size," McConnell said.
One massive boulder, in particular, which was about the size of an average house, just kept rolling down to the creek below.
The road closure will force people with cabins in the area, or those who commute between counties, to take detours, adding as much as 40 miles to the trip.
"It is going to be a problem for the commute up over the mountain, and the people from Nevada trying to get to Duck Creek, and for the snowmobilers trying to get to their cabins," Cedar City resident Jake Benson said.
As UDOT moves in even more heavy machinery to clear the road, engineers are surveying the slide area to ensure the danger above is over.
"It's highly important to us as the transportation department to do everything we can to open this road back up, but we will only do that when we can make sure it is safe and we protect those who like to use this area," said UDOT region director Nathan Lee.
UDOT expects it will be at least two weeks, possibly longer, until the highway can be reopen. The department advises motorists seeking passage between Cedar City and Panguitch to use alternative routes, such as:
- state Road 9
- state Road 143 (Please note that SR 143 often experiences drifting snow forcing occasional closures)
- state Road 20 (Please note that SR 9 goes through Zion National Park and a fee will be charged to use this road)
The Cedar City-Brian Head tourism bureau issued a press release with these suggestions:
To get to SR 143 from Cedar City, continue north on I-15 to Parowan to SR 143, travel south to Brian Head and Cedar Breaks. To continue on to Duck Creek, go east on SR 143 to Mammoth Creek Road then south to Hwy 14.
The Mammoth Creek road is open by may require chains or 4-wheel drive. Travelers may continue on SR 143 to Panguitch which meets with US 89, or from I-15 take SR 20.
Also, travelers trying to get to Kanab or Phoenix from I-15 should consider Hwy 17 to SR 9 through Zion National Park, or I-15 to SR 59 to Fredonia, AZ.
UDOT also suggests calling 511 for the latest road conditions before attempting to use other mountain passes in the area, which can be closed at any time.
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