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St. George high school team stranded overnight in Arizona road closure

ST. GEORGE, Utah (ABC 4) -- A bus full of about 50 Desert Hills High School students on their way back from a cross country track meet in California became stranded overnight after icy conditions on Interstate 15 along Arizona's Virgin River Gorge caused the highway to shut down Saturday night.
ST. GEORGE, Utah (ABC 4) -- A bus full of about 50 Desert Hills High School students on their way back from a cross country track meet in California became among hundreds of others stranded overnight after icy conditions on Interstate 15 along Arizona's Virgin River Gorge caused the highway to shut down Saturday night.

Logan Fielding, the team's coach, told ABC 4 Sunday morning that the charter bus carrying the team ran into a gridlock on I-15 about 20 miles from the Arizona-Utah border.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety announced Sunday morning that both lanes of I-15 were closed because of icy roadways. The roadway through northwest Arizona was covered in ice, especially on bridges, causing traffic to stall. The Utah Department of Transportation set up a hard closure on the southbound lane starting at Exit 2 and rerouted southbound traffic back to St. George.

That left Fielding's team stuck along with miles of semi trucks and other large vehicles unable to move forward or turn around. Later Sunday morning, smaller cars were allowed to turn around and head south, Fielding said.

"We haven't moved hardly at all in the last 10 to 11 hours," he said.

The team was forced to sleep on the charter bus, which was left on during the night so they could stay warm. While they may not have gotten the best night's sleep, Fielding said everyone on the bus was otherwise safe.

Search and Rescue crews from Washington County went from vehicle to vehicle to check on people and hand out blankets and hot chocolate, but Fielding said he hadn't heard anything from Arizona officials. It was hard to keep up-to-date because of spotty cell phone service in the gorge, Fielding said.

"We haven't heard anything," he said. "That's the frustrating part."

As of 10 a.m. Sunday, Arizona DOT said I-15 remained closed between mile posts 8 and 28 but had plows working to reopen it. The gorge was expected to be reopened by noon. Fielding reported at about 11 a.m. that northbound traffic was starting to move again, and the team expected to be back in St. George before noon.
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