Powerful, sudden hailstorm near Leeds leads to 3 near-simultaneous crashes on I-15

Backed-up traffic after a truck slammed into three cars after a powerful hailstorm hit near Leeds, Utah, May 27, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Utah Highway Patrol, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A powerful storm cell that hit the Leeds area Monday afternoon caused three separate crashes all within the same minute.

A car that crashed near Leeds, Utah, after a hailstorm hit, May 27, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Utah Highway Patrol, St. George News

Multiple agencies responded to the chaotic scene on the southbound side of Interstate 15 thinking it was one incident, said Sgt. Larry Mower of the Utah Highway Patrol. After arriving on scene, emergency personnel learned it was three separate incidents involving eight vehicles.

In addition to the rain and already wet road conditions, a hailstorm hit the area at about 12:30 p.m.

“It came in fast and furious,” Mower told St. George News, adding that the hailstorm created a layer of slush on the roads.

Soon after the storm hit the interstate, a woman traveling south slid off the road and hit an embankment and a tree. The crash caused her vehicle to flip, Mower said, but the woman was able to crawl out on her own. He said the she likely hit her head on the side window because of a large bruise on the side of her head, but she didn’t go to the hospital for medical treatment.

In the second crash, a family of two adults and three children were southbound in the left lane. The driver was traveling at about 40 mph due to the weather and previous wreck.

“He said that the roads had become so slick and the storm was so strong that he couldn’t see the vehicle that was 20 feet in front of him,” Mower said.

The driver applied his brakes, but he lost traction, causing the vehicle to slide off the road and hit a two-post sign that was off the shoulder of the roadway.

In the third wreck, a man in a black pickup truck was driving south with his cruise control set between 80 and 85 mph. As he approached the vehicles that were slowing down, he was unable to stop in time, Mower said.

“He literally tried to drive down the center line between the lanes, trying to avoid all the cars in front of him.”

The driver ended up hitting three cars. Two vehicles that were coming up behind the “big mess” tried to stop but ended up being a part of the pile up as well.

Two people were transported to the hospital out of precaution, Mower said, but there were only minor injuries reported from all three incidents.

With these often sudden storms, Mower said, it’s important that drivers take it slow and allow for more stopping distance between your vehicle and the vehicles in front of you.

“I think a lot of times what we’re seeing is when the weather does come in, the speed limit is 80 so everybody thinks they can still go 80, and we just cant have that.”

Besides reducing speed, Mower said, drivers should pay attention to their surroundings, such as the weather and when other drivers are slowing down.

The Utah Department of Transportation, UDOT’s incident management team, Washington County Sheriff’s Office and Hurricane Valley Fire Department responded to the crashes.

This report is based on preliminary information provided by law enforcement or other emergency responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.

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Twitter: @STGnews | @markeekaenews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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