Danger rises as rocks pop and drop on Utah roads

Local News

UPDATE 3/6/19: The Kolob Canyons Scenic Drive was closed March 6, 2019, after reports of three active areas of rockfall. The area will remain closed until the weather improves, and the road can be assessed and cleared.

Due to this storm, access to the Middle Fork of Taylor Creek, Lee Pass, and Timber Creek Overlook is closed. The Kolob Canyons Visitor Center is remaining open.

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Several rock slides closed roads this weekend, and boulders barreling down mountains is a real threat to Utah drivers.

Many Utah roads have steep slopes above them, and our wet weather and daily temperature swings provide the environment for slides to happen. Hikers in Utah recognize a rock slide is a common occurrence and a dangerous one at that.

“When I was younger I was hiking with my family and I actually got hit in he head by a little rock, and it was tiny, but it hurt because of how high up it was,” Maddison Stevens, a hiker, said.

Drivers don’t always realize the danger on the roads. A massive slide wreaked havoc in Grand County, with rocks the size of motor homes on the road, over the weekend. Landslides in Zion National Park also prompted long term closures. 

“We see them happen every year, but we’ve seen more than we are used too and they’ve been more impactful,” John Gleason, the public information officer for the Utah Department of Transportation, said Monday.

UDOT has a specific road crew that can blast bigger boulders that pose issues and remove smaller rocks of the roadway. UDOT mountain crews are also trained to identify potential slide spots. Members of the blast crew are situated in different portions of the state.

“It’s very difficult to predict where these incidents are going to happen, so a lot of times it’s about managing the cleanup,” said Gleason.

The weather pattern is a major contributor to an increase in rock slides. We’ve had storm after storm dump an incredible amount of moisture throughout the state, and with temperatures warming up, we are now dealing with a freeze-thaw pattern.

“The ground is saturated right now and it doesn’t take much, so that’s why we are seeing so many of these slides happening all across the state,” said Gleason. 

It’s incredibly important to be aware of your surroundings this time of year, and while the weather is making it easy for rocks to pop and drop right now, this a threat to remember in every season.

“More often we see this happen in the winter and early spring months, but it really can happen all year round,”  Gleason said.

If you encounter a large rock on one of our roadways, you can contact UDOT

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