Heavy snow triggers crashes, but relief is on the way
Frozen road surfaces and heavy snowfall created massive headaches for commuters in northern Utah Friday morning. But high pressure moving into the state promises clearing skies and warming temperatures for the weekend.
The Utah Highway Patrol reported 37 crashes and slide-offs on Salt Lake County's highways and freeways as the morning commute was beginning. A series of four accidents, the first at 5:25 a.m. and three more around 6:20 a.m., involving about a dozen vehicles in all slowed traffic to an icy crawl on eastbound Interstate 215 near 1400 West.
"It appears all the accidents involved people driving too fast for the road conditions," said UHP Cpl. Todd Johnson.
Another dozen accidents or slide-offs were reported by early Friday on urban streets by various municipal police agencies in the Salt Lake Valley.
The Utah Department of Transportation closed both Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons early Friday morning for avalanche control work, while Parleys and Sardine canyons were briefly restricted to vehicles with four-wheel drive or tire chains.
The National Weather Service reported snowfall totals from the overnight storm ranging from 18 inches at Brighton's crest and 12 inches at Liberty to 8 inches at Jeremy Ranch and 7 inches at Park City. Sandy and Spanish Fork came in with 6-inch totals overnight, while Bountiful and Tooele reported 5 inches, Salt Lake City 4-5 inches, Logan 3 inches,Ogden 2 and Provo 1 inch.
Elsewhere, mountain totals were in the one to two-foot range for new snow as of early Friday: Eagle Point near Beaver reported 21 inches of new snow; Powder Mountain, 16; Alta, Snowbasin, Snowbird, Sundance and Wolf Mountain, 13 inches each; and Brian Head and the Canyons resorts came in at 10 and 9 inches, respectively.
The Utah Avalanche Center had Logan, Ogden, Salt Lake City, Provo, the western Uintas and Manti-Skyline districts under "red," or high risk ratings for potentially deadly snow slides, while an "orange," or considerable avalanche risk existed for the Moab area.
A snowslide that came loose early Friday afternoon closed Little Cottonwood Canyon east of Salt Lake City for about two hours. No injuries were reported.
The forecast Saturday calls for mostly cloudy skies in the north with a 20 percent chance of more snow and high temperatures in the 40s. Southern Utahns, though, should have sunny skies and breezy weather with highs approaching 60 degrees.
On Sunday, Salt Lake City should see sunny skies and a high of 49 degrees. Monday will be even warmer at 57 degrees. St. George is predicted to see a high temperature of 68.