Winter storm pounds southern Utah
A strong Pacific storm system drenched southern Utah with torrential rain and snow Wednesday in the first of a series of winter storms forecast to roll through the state.
In Enterprise and St. George, more than an inch of rain fell, while Cedar Breaks National Monument was buried in about 40 inches of snow.
Snow and rain could fall every day through Wednesday, with low temperatures ranging from the high 20s to the upper 30s, and south winds between 15 mph and 25 mph, according to the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City.
In Garfield County, 24 inches of snow caked the Brian Head Ski Resort. Near-gale-strength gusts of wind between 30 mph and 40 mph closed all of the resort's lifts, terrain, night skiing and snow tubing hill, as well as State Road 143 from Brian Head to Panguitch Lake. The resort is scheduled to reopen today, weather permitting.
In northern Kane County, heavy snow and strong winds closed State Road 14 across Cedar Mountain to U.S. Highway 89 about 4 p.m.
In the Wasatch Mountains -- which were pummeled with between five and 13 inches of snow -- the avalanche danger was rapidly rising on slopes steeper than about 35 degrees, according to the U.S. Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center. With additional snowfall and strong winds forecast, the avalanche danger may soon reach "high" in some mountain areas.
The Avalanche Center advises those heading into the backcountry today to chose a trip with several options, including lower-angle slopes without steep slopes above.
Today, sections of Provo Canyon on U.S. Highway 189 will be closed for 15-minute periods between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. while Utah Department of Transportation crews perform avalanche control in the area. Ice climbing, fishing and other activities between Frazier Park and the Bridal Veil Falls area will be prohibited between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Motorists are advised to visit http://www.commuterlink.utah.gov, or call 511, Utah's free travel information line, to find the latest construction and road condition updates.
The National Weather Service is forecasting a 30 percent chance of rain and snow today, with highs in the mid 40s and south winds between 10 mph and 20 mph in the afternoon.
On New Year's Eve, there is a 70 percent chance of snow, with lows in the upper 20s. New Year's Day will be mostly cloudy with a 40 percent chance of snow and highs in the mid 30s.