Alternate routes open up for stranded motorists in S. Utah headed south

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ST GEORGE, Utah -- Hundreds of drivers found themselves stranded in southern Utah Tuesday after a massive storm washed out Interstate 15 south of Mesquite, Nevada, and more rain only complicated the problems.

Just when city officials thought the storms were over, another cloud burst hit the area around 10:45 a.m. The rain brought with it more flash floods.

“We literally just about got things cleaned up from the last storm a couple of weeks ago when this one hit,” said St George City spokesman Marc Mortensen. “And basically put us back to square one.”

The rain flooded multiple apartments in the west end of town and swelled the Santa Clara and Virgin rivers. The floods in St. George come after massive rain washed out the interstate south of Utah, leaving motorists at a dead end. Semis and other cars set out early on the only detour available at the time, saying on a timetable, they have no choice.

“I’m going to California,” said truck driver Dutrell Perkins. “So I’m going to go back, take the 18, to the 56 to the 93, which is going to take me on a whole circle, which is going to put me 200 miles out of my way.”

The Highway 93 detour is the only option for commercial vehicles while the Nevada Department of Transportation works to fix I-15, which could take several weeks. NDOT opened up another route through Valley of Fire south of Mesquite late Tuesday afternoon, but just for passenger traffic.

The national weather service estimates between one and a half to three inches of rain fell in a 24 hour period. Street crews kept busy clearing away drains and culverts to give the water somewhere to go. It only lasted about two hours, but that was enough time to do its damage.

“We’re in recovery mode, clean up mode throughout the entire city and trying to get back into shape,” Mortensen said.