A storm dumped moderate to heavy snow across Utah on Friday afternoon and evening, hindering travel by both car and air.
The National Weather Service warned drivers to expect hazardous conditions on roadways and to plan accordingly, adding the storm was centralized along the Interstate 15 corridor.
The Utah Department of Transportation tweeted that moderate travel concerns were present from as far north as Tremonton and down to Kanab. Much of Salt Lake City, and mountain passes to its south and west, were labeled “high caution” areas, where “impaired traveled” was expected.
Utah Highway Patrol troopers were dealing with a “huge smattering” of wrecks across the state beginning Friday afternoon, Sgt. Brady Zaugg said.
The biggest wreck, he said, was just outside Beaver, where a semitruck hit a car, followed by several other crashes in the area, including a trooper whose patrol car was hit head-on by another vehicle. Both drivers were uninjured.
Troopers closed Interstate 80 eastbound through Parleys Canyon just before 6 p.m. because of stalled vehicles and jack-knifed semitrucks. It later reopened. Earlier Friday, authorities enacted restrictions on that road for semitrucks, saying all needed snow chains.
Zaugg added that Thursday’s snowstorm was insignificant from troopers’ point of view. There were a handful of crashes, but the snow stopped and roads were cleared soon.
Friday was a different story, although extra troopers were called in both days.
The heavy snow also wreaked havoc in canyons, forcing closures and restrictions across the state.
Big and Little Cottonwood canyons implemented driving restrictions, requiring four-wheel drive or snow chains for all traffic heading in and out. Four-wheel drive or chains were also required for all traffic going through Provo Canyon.
Both cottonwood canyons closed intermittently Friday afternoon as police dealt with numerous slide-offs and crashes, including a wrecked semitruck and stuck ski buses. Major slowdowns and stand-still traffic were reported in both canyons throughout the afternoon and evening.
Big Cottonwood Canyon closed in both directions because of crashes at 4:30 p.m., as skiers and snowboarders emptied from Brighton and Solitude resorts. It reopened about an hour later. Little Cottonwood Canyon was closed to uphill traffic starting Friday around 4:30 p.m., as crews brought up a snowplow to get downhill traffic moving after a bus got stuck on the road. It reopened just before 8:30 p.m.
The road through Zion National Park closed because of the weather. State Route 143, in Dixie National Forest, closed between Brian Head and Mammoth Springs.
Two accidental deaths were reported in Utah during the winter weather. First, a 6-year-old boy in Utah County died Friday when he fell off a snow removal machine and was hit in the head with a piece of the machinery.
Later, Arches National Park confirmed two hikers were killed and another injured Friday morning when they fell into the bowl-area on the Delicate Arch trail amid snow and rain at the park near Moab.
Chief Ranger Scott Brown said it’s too early to tell if weather played a role in the deaths, but the trail is known to become slippery in wintry conditions.
Officials warned of high avalanche danger in Logan, Ogden, Provo, the Uintas and the Salt Lake City area, including the central and southern Wasatch mountain range. The Abajo range in southeast Utah was also a high-danger area.
Since Tuesday, 9 inches of snow has fallen in Salt Lake City. Beaver, where troopers responded to a series of crashes earlier in the day, received just over 6 inches of snow. Just under 16 inches of snow fell in Logan during that time period, with about an inch less hitting Roy, according to the National Weather Service.
The NWS predicted that by the time Friday’s storm moves out of Utah on Saturday, areas across the state could receive 3 to 6 additional inches of snow on top of whatever fell Thursday, with higher amounts possible along Interstate 15.
Salt Lake City was projected to get between 6 and 8 more inches of snow before the storm is done.
Salt Lake City International Airport took home bronze honors on FlightAware’s Misery Map in the midst of Friday’s storm, with the third most delays of any airport in the U.S., coming in behind Dallas/Forth Worth and Denver international airports.
As the snow fell Friday afternoon in Salt Lake City, Denver’s airport had 41 delays, followed by 38 in Dallas and 21 in Salt Lake City.
Three flights were canceled either in or out of Salt Lake City on Friday — all either headed to or coming from Denver, airport spokeswomen Nancy Volmer said.
Airport crews had begun snow removal procedures, she said, noting a snowplow just drove past her vantage point at the airport. De-icing operations had also started.
Volmer said whether there are more delays or cancellations depends a lot on the weather in other cities, saying Salt Lake City had “top notch” snow removal crews.
Snow was forecast to fall along Utah’s Interstate 15 corridor throughout Friday night and will slow Saturday morning through the afternoon, the NWS said.
Interstate 15, Interstate 80 from Salt Lake City to Wyoming and all mountain routes will be difficult to navigate through Saturday morning.
Between 5 and 10 more inches of snow is expected overnight in the mountains, with an anticipated 1 to 3 more inches along Interstate 15, in southwest Wyoming and in the Wasatch Mountain valleys.