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Wind, rain, snow usher in first storm of the weekend


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SALT LAKE CITY — Snow returned to Utah in full force Saturday as a winter storm brought everything from wind to rain to snow, and many weather-related problems in its wake.

About 8:30 p.m. Saturday, the Utah Department of Transportation announced that Little Cottonwood Canyon was closed due to an avalanche.

Unified Police Lt. Justin Hoyal said a slide in the White Pines Chutes area, about five miles up the canyon, was about 20 feet wide and 6 to 8 feet deep and covered both lanes of travel. The canyon was expected to be closed to all traffic until about 10:30 a.m. Sunday, officials said.

UDOT shut down eastbound I-80 at the mouth of Parleys Canyon twice on Saturday night. The first time was to clear an accident just before 5 p.m. The second closure was just after 9 p.m. There was no word when the road would be reopened, but Department of Public Safety spokesman Joe Dougherty said the closure wasn't expected to be long. Traffic was diverted onto I-215 both times.

Also Saturday evening, state Route 92 in Provo Canyon was closed. There was no word on when it might reopen.

The Utah Highway Patrol responded to numerous slideoffs all day in Summit County. By 8 p.m., emergency dispatchers had tallied 140 slideoffs, "and still counting," said Department of Public Safety spokesman Joe Dougherty. One Bountiful resident caught several of them on camera.

Twice, U.S. 40 had to be closed to traffic so snowplows could clear the road, he said.

From Saturday morning through 1:30 p.m. Sunday, UHP troopers responded to 106 non-injury accidents in Salt Lake and Utah counties, 31 injury accidents and 56 slideoffs, Dougherty said.

In Box Elder County, there were 14 slideoffs and one injury crash. Weber County reported one injury crash, seven crashes without injury and six slideoffs, he said.

Crews responded to a single-vehicle rollover about noon Saturday on I-84 near the Weber/Morgan county line. Neither of the two occupants were injured.

Slideoff on 400 North in Bountiful

In Logan Canyon, another vehicle slid off the road and into the Logan River at the same curve where three children were saved from a submerged car on Dec. 31. This time, a 2002 Chevy Avalanche was traveling too fast for conditions and slid off the road, Dougherty said.

"He almost got to the other side of the river," he said.

The vehicle ended up in the water, but the driver was not injured.

In many cases, Dougherty said people were driving unprepared for winter conditions.

"A lot of cars are sliding off because of insufficient tread on their tires," he said. "The tires could pass inspection, but they're not enough to be on a snowy roads."

By 3:30 p.m., heavy snow was falling in most counties in northern Utah. The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for much of northern Utah and the Wasatch Front, saying a "cold and energetic storm system" would bring "significant" snow accumulations to the mountains of northern Utah. The warning expired by 8 p.m.

The storm was expected to taper off by Sunday morning. But a second storm was forecast to roll in by Sunday evening and last through Monday night.

Chains were required for all semitrailers in Parleys Canyon by 3 p.m.

At the Idaho border, I-84 was closed about 8:30 p.m. and was not expected to reopen until sometime Sunday morning, according to UDOT.

Dougherty recommended motorists download the new UDOT app for Android phones and iPhones. He said the app provides road condition updates, links to traffic cameras and an 18-hour forecast.

At 7 p.m. Saturday, Deer Valley was reporting 19 inches of new snow over the previous 18 hours. Brighton Ski Resort reported 15 inches of new snow, Snowbasin had 14 inches and Provo Canyon and Snowbird each had 12 inches.

Heber and the Bountiful bench each had 4 inches of new snow over the same time period, according to the National Weather Service. South Ogden and the Upper Avenues area in Salt Lake City each had 3 inches.

The Utah Avalanche Center listed the danger for potential slides in Logan, Salt Lake, Ogden and west Uintah County as "extreme," its highest warning level.

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"Heavy snow and strong winds have easily overloaded a weak and fragile pre-existing snowpack, resulting in extremely dangerous avalanche conditions. Backcountry travel is not recommended," according to a statement from the center.

As of 8 p.m., about 2,500 customers were without power from Midvale to southeast Idaho because of weather-related outages, according to Rocky Mountain Power. About 1,000 of those customers were in the Salt Lake City area.

Before snow started falling in Salt Lake City on Saturday afternoon, it was rain and standing water that caused the most problems for motorists and residents in northern Utah.

Officials were forced to close northbound I-15 near Plymouth about noon because of flooding, as well as the area near Riverside, just south of Plymouth.

Later, U.S. 89 in Bountiful from 400 North to 750 North was closed because of flooding from a nearby creek, as well as the on-ramp from U.S. 89 to northbound I-15. Both roads were later re-opened.

The snow was preceded by strong winds Saturday morning. Ski resorts in Park City and Ogden recorded wind gusts of more than 80 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

Email:preavy@ksl.com

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Pat Reavy

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