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Blizzard wreaking havoc across Wasatch Front

   |  Posted Feb 13th, 2008 @ 10:30pm


10 photos

 

KSL Team Coverage

Winter returns to the Wasatch Front and wallops drivers with snow and lots of wind tonight. It has caused power outages, road closures, school closures and lots of headaches and wait time for drivers trying to get home.


Sam Penrod at the Point of the Mountain

I've been near Thanksgiving Point for the last three hours, and the situation just keeps getting worse with the snow and wind. I would describe it as an emergency situation around the Point of the Mountain.

Blowing snow makes it difficult to see and people are stuck in traffic, they are stuck in the snow, and it's getting to the point that there's really nowhere for people to go.

Southbound traffic is beginning to improve and clear out, but conditions are still dangerous. It looks like it'll still be a couple hours before traffic is all clear again.

About 7 p.m. we traveled on S.R. 92 near the Micron IM Flash Plant, looking for a stranded school bus. To me, personally, it was frightening, because the snow was drifting so fast, we couldn't see where we were going. We could see dozens of cars that drove off or slid off the road and were stranded.

We finally turned around back to the freeway and had to use our GPS compass to drive directly west so we could stay on the road, because we couldn't see where we were going.

This is how people trying to drive home to Alpine described the scene.

"It's crazy. It's wild. I've never seen anything like it."

"It's the worst snow I've ever seen in Utah."

People have been running out of gas, sliding off the road, some are losing their patience and don't know where to go.

I've talked to people who have spent five hours getting from Salt Lake to Thanksgiving Point. With the highway to Alpine and the roads to Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain closed, thousands of people really are stuck, waiting for the roads to reopen.

Snowplows are out, but the problem is cars are stuck in the road, so it's nearly impossible to clear the roads.

Over 200 students are stranded in three schools and one bus in Utah County. There are 165 students still holed up at Ridgeline Elementary School in Highland. Several of their parents have been able to get to the school with food and blankets, and they're ready to spend the night if they have to. For the kids, it's a big adventure.

Thirty to 40 students are stuck on a bus about a half mile from Ridgeline. Again, some parents have made it to the bus and are helping the kids get through this ordeal.

One child is still at Harvest Elementary in Saratoga Springs. There are a lot of teachers and administrators there ready to spend the night.

Also, 20 students are stuck at Lehi's Lakeview Academy.

Renaissance Academy in Lehi Utah will start later than usual, at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday.


Sandra Yi reporting Here's a rundown on some of the many road closures:

  • U.S. Highway 6 in Utah County is closed east of Spanish Fork between mileposts 177 and 191.
  • Also closed, State Road 73, which is the main east/west road through Lehi. It's closed from Redwood Road all the way west to Cedar Fort because of multiple accidents.
  • State Road 92, the Highland-Alpine exit road, east of I-15 is closed because of poor visibility.
  • And I-84 is closed north of the Utah-Idaho border.

I-80 is open but treacherous both east and west of Salt Lake City because of severe winds and blowing snow.

As the snow fell and stuck, it was the usual scene in weather like this. A jackknifed semi near Point of the Mountain caused major delays and a multi-car crash forced State Road 73 to shut down. Conditions were so bad, our photographers couldn't even get there to get video of it.

The storm came just in time for the evening commute and wrecked havoc on the slushy roads.

A KSL Photographer driving at 900 South and 700 West put a camera on his dashboard and caught the car in front of him lose control. The driver managed to get back on the road.

The Utah Highway Patrol reported high winds and whiteout conditions in Salt Lake, Davis, Weber and Box counties. They urged common sense and caution among drivers.

Sgt. Jeff Nigbur, with the Utah Highway Patrol, said, "One of our biggest problems we see out in these storms is people just go way too fast."

The storm also caused power outages. The street lights were out on 18th North and Beck Street in Salt Lake City.

But we found people who took it all in stride.

Ryan Borrowman said, "Part of me loves it cause I would love to go up skiing again, but another part of me is ready for spring and summer."

Ryan Clayton probably said it best, "It just kind of comes with the territory of Utah."

The Highway Patrol has been busy, but fortunately, there haven't been any major injury crashes. They responded to 50 crashes and 49 slide-offs since 4 o'clock today.

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