A half-mile section of U-14, a popular Southern Utah tourist route near Cedar Breaks National Monument, was ripped away by an early morning mudslide Monday that swept debris into Coal Creek, damming the Cedar Canyon waterway.
Authorities said no one was injured in the incident, although a Utah Department of Transportation grader used to clean up slides as well as remove snow was dumped into the creek.The damage to the two-lane road is so severe that UDOT crews are estimating that it will take at least a month before the half-mile section about 8 miles east of Cedar City can be reopened.
"This is not just a couple of rocks on the road," said UDOT spokesman Kim Morris. "The slide totally obliterated a half-mile of highway and dropped it down into the stream bed."
No one knows exactly when the slide occurred, although it was apparently sometime early Monday morning. The road, which is not as popular with tourists in the winter months, had received a lot of traffic over the Easter weekend.
"We're probably lucky it happened this morning instead of yesterday morning," Morris said. The road is a major thoroughfare between I-15 and U.S. 89 in southern Utah.
UDOT crews were trying Monday morning to break up the debris blocking Coal Creek, before attempting to open an alternate route. Morris said U-148, which leads into Cedar Breaks, will be plowed so traffic could go through the monument to U-143 and on to I-15.
U-148 is typically one of the last roads to re-open every spring because of the heavy snow accumulation. Morris said it would take about three days to plow, meaning it will re-open about a month earlier than usual.
The slide followed a drenching rain storm that passed through the area over the weekend. An inch of rain fell Saturday night and Sunday near Navajo Lake and also in the Kolob area, according to William J. Alder, meteorologist in charge of the Salt Lake office of the National Weather Service.
Despite the rain, the medium-sized creek did not have enough water in it for the damming to pose a serious problem, Morris said. He did not immediately know the value of the UDOT grader that landed in the creek.
The slide occurred in a hilly, uninhabited area. U-14 handles traffic between Cedar City and Long Valley Junction, Kane County. The junction is located between Panguitch, Garfield County, and Kanab, Kane County.