Something chilly this way comes

Published September 29, 2009 5:48 pm
Storm » Wind, rain and big temperature drop
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

With apologies to Bob Dylan, the times they are a changing when it comes to Utah's recent balmy weather.

A major cold front is expected to move into Utah late this afternoon, bringing with it heavy rain, strong winds and the potential for mountain snow. The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch for northern mountains.

"We have a cold storm coming off the Pacific that will move into Idaho and Nevada Tuesday," said Mike Conger, a weather forecaster in Salt Lake City. "We expect strong winds, particularly in the western valleys, as high as 30 to 40 miles per hour, gusting up to 60 miles."

The storm, which may drop temperatures from the mid-80s to the low 50s in one day, is expected to barrel into northwest Utah late Tuesday afternoon or evening and push east across the state. There is a potential for thunderstorms and as much as an inch of rain falling on the foothills of the Wasatch Front, with three-quarters of an inch or greater in the valleys.

"There is a lot of precipitation along the front and behind it and the mountains will be getting the bulk of it in good amounts," said Conger. "We expect rain in the valley and snow above 8,000 feet ... We could get several inches."

Temperatures in southern and eastern Utah will also plummet although those areas should get less rain.

This September may go down as one of the top four warmest since records were kept. That depends a lot on how cold it gets Wednesday, which could drop the average. As of Monday, the average high temperature for Salt Lake this month was 84 degrees, while the average low was 58. That compares to a normal of 78 degrees and an average low at 52.

"We are nowhere near the record," said Brown. "The record [average] high was 87.5 in 1979."

Conger said it's too soon to say whether the 80s are gone for good this year.

"I wouldn't rule out getting into the 80s again just yet, but I don't see it happening in the next couple of weeks the way it looks. We should climb back up a bit going into the weekend, though we're not going to get back to normal," he said.

It's not going to be chilly enough to freeze, at least at lower elevations. The average date of the first freeze in the Salt Lake Valley is Oct. 15, though the earliest on record was on Sept. 13 in 1928. The earliest first measurable snow in the valley came on Sept. 17, 1965; the latest was on Dec. 25, 1939. The average date for the first snow in the valley is Nov. 6.

Ski Utah President Nathan Rafferty called the potential for early snow at Wasatch resorts a mixed bag.

"From a marketing perspective, there is nothing like a jolt of cold air and some snow to get people thinking about skiing and snowboarding," he said. "The resorts will see a sharp uptick in calls and we'll see more hits on our Web site. But September snow is not going to stick. Realistically, we should be skiing in between 30 and 45 days."

wharton@sltrib.com" Target="_BLANK">wharton@sltrib.com

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