Nevada crews aim to repair Interstate 15 by Friday

AP News
Posted: Sep 10, 2014 10:40 PM
Nevada crews aim to repair Interstate 15 by Friday

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Road crews hoped to have one lane repaired in each direction Friday on a closed stretch of busy Interstate 15 in southern Nevada that crumbled during intense flash flooding, a state transportation official said Wednesday.

It wasn't immediately clear if the temporary road being built on the vital interstate between Las Vegas and Salt Lake City would be able to immediately bear the weight of long-haul trucks, which have been detoured since Monday onto two-lane highways through Panaca, Nevada, and Cedar City, Utah, according to Nevada Department of Transportation spokeswoman Julie Duewel.

"We're trying to open in each direction by Friday afternoon," she said. "We don't know if that will include commercial traffic as well."

Crews were working to repair the freeway after Gov. Brian Sandoval declared a state of emergency and officials began assessing damage from Monday's intense storm that swamped an area of small towns about 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas and an adjacent Indian reservation.

No damage estimate was immediately available, but officials tallied 48 homes damaged by flooding in the Overton area and planned to tour the Moapa area on Thursday, Clark County spokeswoman Stacey Welling said. Residents could report flood damage through a telephone hotline, 702-455-5717.

Officials prepared to ask county lawmakers next Tuesday for an emergency declaration to allow the region to receive state and federal relief funds.

Flash flooding Monday washed out a stretch of I-15 around Exit 90 near Moapa after more than 4 inches of rain fell in less than two hours in the area.

The National Weather Service said the storm might have been most intense in 30 years in the Muddy River valley and rural Moapa.

The sudden torrent of runoff down sunbaked washes toward the Muddy and Virgin rivers and Lake Mead also scoured out part of a main Union Pacific rail freight line and swelled a river so high that Zion National Park in Utah was briefly shuttered.

Railroad spokesman Aaron Hunt said Wednesday that crews were finalizing repairs in the Moapa area and removing mud that washed across other stretches of track on the busy Las Vegas-to-Salt Lake City main line.

The same storm, spawned by seasonal monsoon moisture and the remnants of Tropical Storm Norbert, dumped heavy rain throughout the Southwest and set a single-day rainfall record Monday in Phoenix.

During the height of the storm, about 190 people were evacuated from the Moapa Band of Paiutes reservation after tribal officials warned that waters were close to breaching a Muddy River dam.

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Transportation officials said the damaged stretch of I-15 near Moapa could take weeks to be fully repaired. Duewell said it usually carries about 20,000 vehicles a day.

Authorities opened a route through Nevada's Valley of Fire State Park to passenger vehicles detouring around the flood damage on I-15.

Trucks traveling between Las Vegas and Salt Lake City were still required to use a roundabout detour between Exit 64 in Nevada and Exit 59 in Utah, using U.S. 93, Nevada State Route 319, and Utah State Route 56.

Passenger vehicles, recreational vehicles and tour buses can use Nevada State Route 169 and a serpentine road through Valley of Fire Road between Exits 75 and 93.

State Route 167 also connects with Route 169 near Overton.

More than 50 Red Cross and cooperating volunteers went door to door Wednesday in Moapa, Logandale and Overton to assess damage and offer help to residents, said Lloyd Ziel, American Red Cross Southern Nevada Chapter spokesman.

"Some people didn't get touched, and some have several feet of water in their homes," he said.