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Storm delivers rain, snow, higher avalanche danger

Storm delivers rain, snow, higher avalanche danger


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SALT LAKE CITY — A storm moving that hit Utah Friday morning slowed the morning commute, and even got some in the mountains stuck for some time.

In the valley, roads were slushy on the Salt Lake benches, causing traffic to be slow-going on the belt routes, in Davis County, and near Point of the Mountain. Vehicles in both Big and Little Cottonwood canyons were restricted to 4-wheel drive or chains.

Up Cottonwood Canyon at Alta, the heavy snowfall reminded drivers how tricky it can be to get used to the changing weather.

"I'm a city boy, don't know how to drive in the snow, have no business being out here," said Washington state resident Garth Evans, who works for a sporting goods company out of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. He was up Cottonwood Canyon for a convention when the snow got him.

"I backed out of my spot, put on the brakes, and I just kept sliding into the ditch," he said. "...I probably should have known better, but that's what you got AAA for. What are you going to do?"

He wasn't the only one who had to call for help Friday. Utah Highway Patrol reported 22 car accidents along the Wasatch front.

Up in the mountains, even seasoned snowbirds had trouble.

Meg Kep, who has worked at Alta for 25 years, got stuck as well, but for her, there was a bright side.

"We've been waiting for this and hopefully, it'll just keep coming," Kemp said.

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Avalanche danger in the mountains is low but expected to rise significantly, especially in the those peaks above Salt Lake, Ogden and Logan as the storm moves in. Those areas are being watched closely because a previous storm left about 6 inches to a foot of snow on the north-facing slopes. New snow on top of that raises the potential for an avalanche.

The first avalanches of the season are the most dangerous and likely to cause injury, according to Utah Avalanche Center Director Bruce Tremeper.

"Avalanches in this early season are more dangerous than usual because of the thin snow pack. Any avalanche will be going through rocks and stumps and lots of obstacles, so they're more dangerous than usual and they carry you at freeway speeds," he said.

People heading into the backcountry this weekend should monitor the advisories at Utahavalanchecenter.org and should carry basic avalanche gear such as an electronic avalanche rescue beacon, shovel and probe.

For skiers awaiting the season to officially start, resorts report that the storm could give a good base for the man-made snow they've been laying down. If it stays cold, they may open as soon as next week.

Get the complete weather forecast here and follow @kslweyman for up-to-minutes tweets on this storm.

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Shara Park, Randall Jeppesen and Alex Cabrero

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