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Reporting from the St. George area focused on local government, public lands and the environment, indigenous issues and faith and spirituality.

Train Derails In Rural Southwest Utah Amid Thunderstorms And High Floodwaters

An aerial view of the derailed freight train.
Courtesy of Iron County Sheriff’s Office
A freight train derailed in rural Iron County Thursday night because of high floodwaters covering the tracks.

Southern Utah has been hit by monsoonal rains and flash floods forcing closures and causing damage.
Thursday night, thunderstorms hit southwest Utah and flooding caused a train derailment in rural Iron County, less than 40 miles northwest of Cedar City.

The freight train was traveling approximately 60 mph when it was derailed, according to Lt. Del Schlosser with the Iron County Sheriff’s Office. All three people on it were injured. There were at least 95 cargo cars involved and one is reported to have explosive materials.

Rising floodwaters stopped the people from evacuating the train until emergency personnel were able to reach them over two hours later.

Two individuals are said to be in good condition. One person received a head injury during the incident and is reported to be in stable condition.

In preparation for thunderstorms this week, St. George City offered sandbags to residents. Flooding forced closures along some roads in the area, but there’s no major damage reported by the city.

A photo of the derailed freight train on its side.
Courtesy of Iron County Sheriff’s Office
All three people on board were injured in the derailment Thursday night. Though they are all now in either good or stable condition.

Last month, flooding near Zion National Park forced closures and damage to buildings in Springdale. The Zion Canyon Medical Clinic had to close its doors because of the damage.

The state’s historic drought is having an effect on flooding in the region. Jon Meyer, a climatologist at Utah State University’s Utah Climate Center, said the near record-low soil moisture — which results in a dry and crusty landscape — exacerbates the impacts of flooding.

“When you get really intense rainfall rates over a short period of time, that water can't get down into the soil very quickly, there's almost like a candy coating shell on the land surface and that water, instead of going into the soil, just runs right off,” Meyer said. “So an area that's already prone for flash flooding events this time of year, thanks to the monsoon rainfalls, gets even more susceptible when we get really dry soil conditions.”

Lexi is KUER's Southwest Bureau reporter
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