ST. GEORGE — The recent flurry of winter storms that caused accidents and traffic problems across the state did not leave Southern Utah untouched.
Over the past two weeks, eight semitrailers have lost control on a section of Interstate 15 between St. George and Cedar City known as “the Black Ridge.”
It’s an area near the town of Leeds, between mile markers 27 and 33, where the highway changes elevation and local highway patrol officers say they often see snow transition to rain.
Lt. Shawn Hinton of the Utah Highway Patrol told KUER that the one identified common factor is the weather.
“It’s an anomaly for us,” he said. “We normally don’t have that many truck crashes in that area, and it’s happening when the roads are wet.”
It’s a notorious section of road where accidents are not uncommon, said Kevin Kitchen, the UDOT spokesperson for Southern and Central Utah.
But what is unusual, he said, is for only semitrailers to be affected — and the cause is unclear.
“Typically, when you see crashes happen, you see them across the board,” he said, “So we may be dealing with a situation that doesn’t treat all vehicles the same.”
UDOT will be installing weather-related warning signs in the area within the coming days and will be conducting tests to detect any abnormalities with the road that may be a contributing factor to the accidents.
Kitchen said that UDOT recently serviced that section of highway with a “micro-surfacing” treatment designed to seal the roadway against water and increase friction. He added that the treatment is routine and that the agency will be testing to see if it may be affecting traction.
The crashes did not cause any injuries or fatalities, but officials urge drivers to reduce their speeds during hazardous weather.
David Fuchs is a Report for America corps member who reports from KUER's Southwest Bureau in St. George.