Drivers get stuck, semis stranded in massive I-15 backup in central Utah

Dec 29, 2022, 7:31 AM | Updated: 7:37 am

MILLARD COUNTY, Utah — Drivers came across a travel nightmare Wednesday night on Interstate 15 in central Utah, becoming stuck for hours because of crashes and stranded semi-trucks.

The Utah Department of Transportation reported several crashes and stalled vehicles throughout the evening on I-15 in the area of Cove Fort, near the I-70 interchange. At one point, UDOT said the backup caused delays of three hours.

Chris and Katie Rasmussen were headed down to Las Vegas from their home in Wyoming when they hit the backup. They said everything had been clear up to that point.

“It’s taken us two hours and 15 minutes to go 6 miles,” Chris said as he sat in the passenger seat while his wife drove.

At some points during the massive backup, he said they just sat there and didn’t move for half an hour. They were originally planning to be in Vegas by 9 p.m. Instead, at 8 p.m., they were traveling a few miles an hour 250 miles away.

“We were hoping to not have to drive too much in the dark. So then when we hit it, we were like, ah, man! It’s getting dark now, and we’re hitting the icy roads,” Chris said. Katie said that originally the backup estimate was 14 minutes — not two hours.

(Photo courtesy Derek Anderson)

Derek Anderson said he took off from Bountiful around 12:30 pm, renting a car in Salt Lake City to drive down to California after Southwest Airlines canceled their flights.

He said they spent two hours not moving at all on I-15 and didn’t make it to Las Vegas until 10 p.m.

Amber Sundown Clayton also became stopped in the traffic. She said that they were at a standstill for so long, that kids in other cars got out to play in the snow and people took their dogs for walks.

Daytona Ciarus and his father Jerad Ciarus were driving a semi-truck from Salina back home to Cedar City, after making deliveries for work. Daytona said they didn’t make it far from I-70 before hitting problems on southbound I-15. They saw four or five semi-trucks stuck trying to make it up the icy hill.

“There was a truck that had actually, his trailer had gone off the side of the road,” Daytona recounted. “And it looked like it was going to tip over, but the tractor was still on the road.”

They were soon to follow.

(Photo courtesy Jerad Ciarus)

“We got stuck,” he said, with a laugh. “It was not very fun. And we were stuck for a good hour, and then we were trying to get our chains on.”

After getting the chains on the truck and tractor-trailer, they took off — but were soon stopped again. They said another semi-truck without chains became stuck in the right lane. While passing that truck, Daytona got stuck in the middle lane. The chains had come off.

They finally got going again and made it home more than two-and-a-half hours late.

While speaking on a Zoom call to KSL TV in the backup, the Rasmussens pointed the phone toward the windshield as a semi-truck struggled to make it uphill.

“This semi here is coming up the hill, and you see how slow he’s going because he’s spinning out,” Chris explained. The semi eventually stopped and became stuck. “We’ve seen ones with like their tires were actually smoking, they were trying so hard to go up the hills,” Katie said.

The couple knew they wouldn’t make it to Las Vegas and tried pulling off into Beaver for the night but said tons of other travelers had done the same thing. They had to continue on to St. George and planned to get a hotel room, then finish the drive to Vegas in the morning.

“Luckily going to Vegas, that’s the warm area,” Chris said, chuckling. “So, we get out of the snow and the ice.”

(Photo courtesy Chris Rasmussen)

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Drivers get stuck, semis stranded in massive I-15 backup in central Utah