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Winter blast pounds Utah, forcing delays on the roads and in the air

   |  Posted Dec 19th, 2008 @ 10:00pm


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Another powerful winter storm pounded Utah today, guaranteeing a white Christmas but also making it white-knuckle time on the roads.

Snow plows are still out on the freeways tonight, and the Utah Highway Patrol is warning drivers even though the roads appear clear, with temperatures dropping, they need to be prepared for icy roads.

The snow arrived this afternoon and hit hard. Northern Utah got the first wave around noon. Then the storm moved south and reached into Utah County by 3:00 this afternoon.

As quickly as the storm hit, calls reporting slide-offs and crashes started rolling in, and police quickly got caught in the middle. In one incident on I-80 near 5600 West, two law enforcement vehicles collided.

"Several vehicles came in behind us at a high rate of speed, and one of the vehicles impacted my vehicle, pushing my car into the Salt Lake City Police Department vehicle, and then we subsequently had nine vehicles in a chain-like reaction where we had five separate crashes involving those nine vehicles," UHP Lt. Chris Simmons said.

Tonight in Holladay, Salt Lake County sheriff's deputies say the driver of a Hummer fell asleep at the wheel and lost control, crashing into a power pole. The crash wasn't weather-related, but it knocked out power to about 700 homes in the area, leaving many residents cold and in the dark.

At the Salt Lake International Airport, there were just a handful of flight cancellations through the afternoon and evening, but list of flight delays was long. Most delays were the result of flights arriving late to Salt Lake, only to be delayed again because of the storm here.

The storms have made it a couple of exhausting days for snow plow operators. Utah Department of Transportation crews were out putting salt down before the snow arrived and have been out ever since, plowing.

UDOT is trying a new piece of technology this year. About six plows are equipped with GPS tracking devices. UDOT officials say they can monitor the productivity of those plows and the amount of materials they go through, including salt and brine solution, in order to respond to trouble spots more.

"We have over 200 plows along the Wasatch Front. Every single person that needs to be out here right now is in a plow, and they'll be here until the storm is over," UDOT spokesman Adan Carrillo said.

UHP says the latest numbers they have total about 79 accidents. Most of them were minor slide-offs between Salt Lake and Utah counties.

The storm has also forced several closures of roads and businesses across the Wasatch Front. To see a complete list of those closures and information on delayed flights CLICK HERE.

E-mail: spenrod@ksl.com
E-mail: wjohnson@ksl.com
E-mail: aadams@ksl.com
E-mail: mgiauque@ksl.com

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