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Winter storm hits Northern Utah in time for commute


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SANDY — A big winter storm moved across the across the Wasatch Front Thursday evening, making it a white-knuckle drive for many people just trying to get home.

Motorists everywhere dealt with major backups, as snowplows tried their best to keep up with the storm.

The total of crashes is still adding up, but The Utah Highway Patrol said there were at least 75 accidents between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m.

At one point, UHP used Twitter to ask motorists involved in accidents to get off at the next exit or risk being hit again.

The storm also caused a few closures Friday night. Weber Applied Technical College reported they would not be holding classes and all Salt Lake City library locations were closing at 7 p.m. State Road 92 was closing between US189 and Sundance from 7 p.m. to about 8 p.m. for avalanche control.

Those charged with clearing the freeways and roads started preparations well before the first snowflakes started flying to minimize possible problems.

Earlier in the day, the Utah Department of Transportation's road crews rested up for what was expected to be an extra long shift. Once they're on, it's all hands on deck until the storm stops and the roads are clear.

Why the name Gandolf?
By Keith McCord

The Weather Channel decided to name this weekend's winter storm "Gandolf". The channel is attaching names to storms that will cause significant impact.

Hurricanes and tropical storms have been named since the 1940s. Winter storms, however, have not traditionally been given names in the U.S.

"Well the criteria is how big the storm will be, how many people it will impact, what kind of impact it's bringing, heavy snow, the wind, timing," said Weather Channel Meteorologist Paul Goodloe.

The Weather Channel has come up with 26 storm names for this season, following the order of the alphabet. Gandolf is the seventh of the year so far.

The Weather Channel believes giving a storm a name draws awareness and works very well with today's social media.

As with hurricanes, the winter storms will keep their name as they move across the country. Once Gandolf leaves Utah, the name will stick, as long as the potential impacts are still significant.

Email: kmccord@ksl.com

UDOT driver Derek Donivan is one person in charge of the freeways. He is part of a plan that involves treating the pavement with a brine solution ahead of time, allowing snow plows to more easily clear the fallen snow. It's science and manpower together, fighting Mother Nature.

"Pre-treating the roads allows us to have a slight edge in ways that as the snow hits the road, if we have pre-treated correctly, that snow will not bond to the roadway, allowing us to push it faster," said UDOT spokesman Adan Carillo.

Overall, the storm is considered moderate. But before the snow even started falling, the winds alone caused some damage ahead of the storm. A giant KFC bucket sign was blown off its pole in Sandy along 9400 South and 700 East.

The bucket landed on the pavement and no one was injured. Workers hooked the bucket up to a truck and pulled it away to get it out of the front entrance.

Forecasters say snow is expected through the night, with up to 6 inches possible in the valleys.

As of 10 p.m. Thursday, there had been no school cancellations announced. Most districts said they planned to assess the weather and roads Friday morning before making a decision.

Contributing: Randall Jeppesen

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Jennifer Stagg and Richard Piatt

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