LAS VEGAS (AP) - Road crews made progress toward reopening one lane each way through a washed-out stretch of Interstate 15, a transportation official said Thursday, while officials gauged property damage in nearby southern Nevada desert communities.
Workers hoped to open one freeway lane in each direction by Friday afternoon to get traffic moving again along the busy truck and tourist route connecting Las Vegas and Salt Lake City, said Nevada Department of Transportation spokeswoman Julie Duewel.
The patched-up northbound lane might be able to carry only passenger vehicles, Duewel said. Long-haul trucks will still be detoured onto two-lane highways on a roundabout route that adds 50 miles and several hours of bumper-to-bumper congestion to the trip. Oversized loads hearing north are banned altogether. Officials said they don't expect to restrict southbound commercial traffic. The round-the-clock road work came after flash flooding Monday destroyed a stretch of I-15 near Moapa, about 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
More than 4 inches of rain fell in less than two hours in the hard-baked desert hills. Gov. Brian Sandoval has declared a state of emergency in the area because of the damage.
The damage assessment involving Glendale, Moapa and the Moapa Band of Paiutes reservation came after officials tallied 48 damaged homes in the Overton and Logandale areas downstream on the Muddy River, Clark County spokeswoman Stacey Welling said. No dollar estimate was immediately available. County lawmakers will be asked Tuesday for an emergency declaration clearing the way for the region to receive state and federal relief funds.
The flooding also damaged a Union Pacific rail freight line and swelled a river so high that Zion National Park in Utah was briefly closed. The storm, spawned by the remnants of Tropical Storm Norbert, dumped heavy rain throughout the Southwest and set a single-day rainfall record Monday in Phoenix.
Duewel said it could take several weeks to fully repair the damaged stretch of I-15. The interstate usually carries about 20,000 vehicles a day. Authorities have opened a serpentine detour through Nevada's Valley of Fire State Park to passenger cars, buses and recreational vehicles. The Nevada Highway Patrol said northbound trucks will continue to be detoured for at least a week to U.S. 93, Nevada state Route 319 and Utah state Route 56.