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Canyon mudslide closes Highway 6


7 photos

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Heavy rain turned a road construction project into a muddy mess and forced the closure of U.S. Highway 6 between Eastern Utah and the Wasatch Front. Sgt. Jeff Nigbur of the Utah Highway Patrol said, "We're extremely lucky that nobody was caught in this."

The highway closed around 2 p.m. Thursday and was in the process of being reopened just before midnight.

The mudslide occurred about 10 miles southeast of Soldier Summit, forcing Highway 6 to be closed at Highway 191 near Helper and the Thistle turnoff on Highway 89. Crews had expected the road would be open at 8 Thursday night, but they encountered another delay after debris plugged a culvert for a second time.

The slide measured about 300 yards long, but most of the debris was moved out of the way by quick-thinking construction workers. "They have all their front-end loaders, excavators and backhoes and have pretty much moved that debris off," said Nigbur.

Construction workers report that the rain fell so fast that the exposed area of hillside began to move. The force of the mud and water tossed cement barriers into the middle of the highway. It took crews several hours to clear the road of the mud and rocks.

Sgt. Nigbur said, "All of the debris has been cleared off the road. Probably their biggest concern is letting the mud settle on the road so they can move it. They do not want anyone coming through here later tonight when it's dark and having the possibility of crashing or losing control."

Crews have been sweeping and spraying off the highway to make it safe again. This, while hundreds of cars have been detoured or forced to wait for the highway to reopen. It was a day of frustration for those traveling between Eastern Utah and the Wasatch Front.

A truck driver named Eric said, "I started at 4:30 this morning, and I got up here about 2:30. They kept telling us four hours, four hours. And now it's about eight hours, but there's nothing you can do."

While drivers had the option of taking the 100-mile detour, most opted to wait it out and figured they would still come out ahead.

"A lot of gas, a lot of time, and so I'd rather sit here and not waste the money," Eric said.

One driver's idea of a detour got him into big trouble. He started driving on the railroad tracks only to be forced onto the embankment by an approaching train. That's when he became stuck.

"How much is it going to cost? I will tell him, about $181 an hour."

And he won't be paying just the tow truck several hundred dollars, but Union Pacific for damages to the railroad, and a fine for criminal trespassing.

One of the detour routes had trouble of its own. Highway 191 had some flash flooding near Duchesne with rocks and mud on the road. That caused an hour-long delay there, so it hasn't been easy to deal with this closure.

No one was hurt by the slide.

In addition to the flash flooding near Highway 191, there have been reports of flash flooding in Hanksville and Moab. If you have pictures of the flooding, please submit them to KSL.com.

E-mail: spenrod@ksl.com
E-mail: rjeppesen@ksl.com

Photos

Sam Penrod
    Randall Jeppesen

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