Monster storm moves on
Your back may get a break.
After two days of digging out from the nastiest storms of the season, Utahns can take solace in the following forecast:
"The heavy snow is definitely over," Mike Seaman, a forecaster with the National Weather Service's office in Salt Lake City, said Friday.
Some flurries could fall, but huge dumps of snow aren't expected in the coming week.
Those are soothing words indeed for the thousands of Utahns and travelers who suffered one way or another from the onslaught that was expected to end -- finally -- early today.
West Jordan was pounded by a reported 21 inches of snow by Friday morning; Alta got about 31 inches. Meanwhile, winds gusted up to 90 mph on Ogden Peak and neared 80 mph in Tooele.
Due to whiteouts caused by the heavy snowfall and gusting winds, the Utah Highway Patrol closed a handful of major roads from the Utah-Idaho border in the north all the way down to Brian Head, just east of Cedar City, in southern Utah.
Interstates 15 and 70 through Beaver County shut down Thursday night. And the harsh weather forced closure of State Route 30 and Interstate 84 in northern Utah.
On Salt Lake and Utah county roads, UHP troopers logged nearly 100 accidents between 7 p.m. Thursday and 10 a.m. Friday.
But Trooper Cameron Roden said there weren't a lot of residents traveling, thanks to the holiday, and noted that 100 accidents isn't extraordinary for a major storm that dropped around 8 inches in most parts of the Salt Lake Valley.
Even as the snow and wind petered out Friday, Roden cautioned drivers to watch their speeds. "Things will start to improve from here," Roden said.
Utah Department of Transportation plow drivers had begun prepping the roads for snow before it began. They spray a special brine that helps prevent snow from sticking.
Once the snow started, they plowed more than 6,000 miles of state-controlled roads and highways, attacking the interstates first.
"Everybody that needed to be out there on a plow was out there," said UDOT spokesman Adam Carrillo.
UDOT budgets for 20 to 25 big storms annually, he said, and it costs about $1 million in wages, operations and other expenses to handle each one. This year, UDOT plans to spend about $26 million.
Salt Lake City International Airport still was reeling from the storm Friday, and dealing with a backlog of stuck passengers even after the weather had cleared.
Spokeswoman Barbara Gann said 17 flights were immediately diverted Thursday evening when the monstrous storm moved in, and 200 people had to spend the night in airport terminals. Four flights were canceled overnight and many more delayed.
Gann said many more flights were being sent to Salt Lake City from stormy Chicago and from Atlanta, which was coping with poor visibility.
"It's your normal winter travel," Gann said.
Some called the blizzard the worst they had seen in years. Others played it down as just the worst of this season.
Katie Gallis, who works at Brian Head Resort, said she saw people putting chains on their tires and slipping off roads. A shuttle dropped passengers in a parking lot full of two-foot-high snow and then got stuck.
"We've been slammed pretty hard," Gallis said, adding that people who live in the Duck Creek Village area 40 minutes southeast of the resort had to circumvent the closed State Route 143 by driving an additional 2 1/2 hours through Hurricane and Springdale before heading back up toward their homes.
Jim Smith said the six inches of snow that fell at his Smith and Edwards surplus store in Farr West was nothing compared to the two feet at his home in the Ogden Valley town of Liberty. But, naturally, Thursday's gale-force winds managed to pack much of the snow up against the store's doors, which had to be cleared before shoppers could enter the store Friday.
Even late Friday, the snow was falling at an inches-an-hour rate in western parts of the Salt Lake Valley, said Larry Helquist, maintenance supervisor for the Salt Lake County Department of Public Works.
"We haven't had a storm like this for 10 years," he said,
As of 4 p.m. Friday, his crews had been out for 24 hours straight. They had hit most of the 840 miles of county roads at least once.
"We figure we'll have plows out all night," he said, "and all day tomorrow."
The weather service said Saturday will be colder -- around 26 degrees -- along the northern Wasatch Front and mostly cloudy, with a 30 percent chance of precipitation, before Tuesday.
Nighttime lows will be in the low to mid-20s through the week. Daytime highs beginning Sunday will be in the mid-30s, and the skies will be cloudy with a low chance of precipitation though the week.
In St. George, daytime highs will be near 40 on Saturday and climb to around 50 for most of next week under partly cloudy skies. Lows will be about 26 Saturday night, climbing into the mid-30s for the rest of the week.
Reporter Mike Gorrell contributed to this story.
Troopers closed Interstate 15 through Beaver County for nearly an hour Thursday evening due to low visibility from a sudden onslaught of snow.
"My sister went to dinner at her in-laws' [home]. When she got there, everything was fine. She was even wearing slippers," said Erin Orton. "Within 10 minutes, it was just a blizzard. It hit so quick, and the wind was blowing so hard you couldn't see the road or anything in front of you."
Orton, a cashier at the Eagle's Landing Texaco along I-15 in Beaver County, said a trucker who came in Thursday night said the snowfall was so bad, he called Utah Highway Patrol as a precaution to ensure troopers knew of his position.
"He said he'd been through a lot of bad weather," Orton added, "but this was the first time in 33 years he's ever called Highway Patrol to let them know where he was -- just in case something happened."
Snowy cattle roundup
Russ Boyer lives on the Idaho side of the state line, but he stopped at Mollie's Cafe in Tremonton on Friday afternoon for a cup of coffee. He and friends were trying to round up cattle swept onto the highways by the storm.
Boyer said Interstate 84 near the state line remained closed much of Friday.
But Boyer said it's not necessarily anything out of the ordinary for the area.
"We never had good visibility -- you could see maybe an eighth of a mile," Boyer said. "This is the worst one of the season, but it's just par for normal winters. You expect this at least once a winter."
A would-have-been sparse Crystal Inn at Brigham City found its beds filling quickly after motorists were forced to wait out the storm due to closures in Sardine Canyon and farther north along I-84.
Employee Heather Gittins said driving was slow-going on the icy roads, and most of the people at the motel Thursday night were waiting for I-84 to reopen.
"I've been here about 10 years, and so far it's the worst that I've seen here in Brigham City," said Gittins, a Willard resident whose electricity went out for nearly four hours at her home, one of as many as 10,000 outages throughout Utah. "I walked out of my front door this morning and stepped into snow up to my knees."
Fire engine careens into hydrant
A Salt Lake City resident outside Thursday evening saw a fire truck slide down a slick Browning Avenue, near 1300 South and 1300 East, and slam into a hydrant.
Glen Jefferies said the engine was not speeding, but it still lost control on one of the steeper, slicker parts of Browning Avenue just after midnight. The driver then crashed into a hydrant, which stopped him from running into parked cars farther down the road.
Some water burst out of the broken hydrant, but firefighters shut off the water before it froze.
Jefferies said it took about two hours to free up the engine and praised the firefighters for potentially saving parked cars and preventing additional damage.
-- Steve Gehrke
The latest storms forced about a dozen road restrictions, but by Saturday morning only one remain closed, according to KUTV.
State Road 14 closed between I-15 and US-89 in Kane County.
Ogden Peak 90
Park City - Jupiter 86
Olympus Cove 71
Fish Springs 53
Great Salt Lake Marina 50
Grantsville Reservoir 46
Logan »14 inches
Salt Lake City » 8 inches
Pleasant Grove » 5 inches
Heber City » 3 inches
Duchesne » 3 inches
Delta » 2.5 inches
Richfield » 2 inches
Source: National Weather Service, as of Friday evening