Just hours after crews cleared a mudslide and opened Little Cottonwood Canyon on Friday another burst of rain sent mud and rocks down the mountain and onto the road.
The latest slide happened about five miles up the canyon and closed the road from about 11:30 p.m. Friday to 6:30 a.m. Saturday, said Utah Department of Transportation spokesman Adan Carrillo. The slide was not as extensive as those that trapped a family and other visitors until about 3 p.m. Friday, though Carrillo said the debris washed over the road in one of the same spots crews had previously cleared. He attributed the slide to the rain that fell late Friday.
“It wasn’t as much rain this time so the cleanup wasn’t as extensive,” Carrillo added.
Monica Traphagan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said Snowbird received about 0.7 inch of rain during a storm late Friday. The storm was part of an especially moist air mass moving over Utah.
“It’s not unheard of,” Traphagan said of the wetness, “but it’s certainly unusual for us.”
Thursday night and Friday morning, 1.47 inches of rain fell at Alta, which is up-canyon from both rock slides.
According to Carrillo, a UDOT supervisor who has worked in Little Cottonwood Canyon for 30 years said that in the last decade he hasn’t seen anything similar to the latest series of slides.
The impact of the Friday night slide on traffic was minimal, Carrillo said. Authorities remained on high alert Saturday and were monitoring the area for other potentially dangerous spots.
The slides end up blocking the road when drainage areas meant to divert water become clogged with mud, rocks, branches and other debris. When that happens, Carrillo said, the flow has nowhere to go but up onto the pavement. Following the latest slide, Carrillo said the road integrity “is still in great shape.”