Little Cottonwood Canyon reopens after an avalanche struck a car

(Photo courtesy of the Utah Department of Transportation) A naturally occurring avalanche covered the road up Little Cottonwood Canyon on Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020. It hit a car, but did not injure any of the five passengers.

The Utah Department of Transportation closed Little Cottonwood Canyon early Sunday after an avalanche hit a car, but as of Sunday afternoon, the canyon was reopened to traffic.

John Gleason, UDOT spokesman, said the slide was naturally caused. Over the past two days, Little Cottonwood Canyon has received more than 2 feet of snow, he said. UDOT’s team of experts performed avalanche mitigation early Sunday, but snow continued to fall in the area, and around 10:45 a.m., the avalanche came down.

The slide in the White Pine area was about 300 feet wide, Gleason said, and was about 2 feet deep across the road. The avalanche struck a car with five people inside, but no one was hurt. It was a “best case scenario for something we always try to prevent,” he said.

After crews cleared away the debris and towed the vehicle, UDOT reopened the canyon.

Gleason said it’s “rare” that an avalanche would happen after mitigation tasks were performed, but such is the nature of the area, he said, and “unfortunately, we can’t control the elements.”

“Little Cottonwood is one of the trickiest places in the U.S. as far as avalanche danger is concerned,” Gleason said. The reasons for this, he said, are “the number of areas that are prone to avalanches coupled with the close proximity to people driving up the canyon.”

The snowy conditions will persist in the Salt Lake City area through Tuesday. For a full forecast, visit sltrib.com/weather.