News / Utah / 

1st big snowstorm a nightmare for some, 'wonderland' for others

(Scott G Winterton /Deseret News)


212 photos

Show 3 more videos

Estimated read time: 9-10 minutes

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's largest snowstorm in two years brought record snowfall to parts of the Wasatch Front, left commuters with a white-knuckle drive both to and from work, brought scattered collisions, slide-offs, power outages and school delays, and left area residents bracing for more Tuesday morning.

By Monday evening the Bountiful bench had received 25 inches of snow, a record for a single-day snowstorm. Salt Lake City Airport recorded 6.6 inches, breaking a record established in 1922, and other destinations also reported impressive totals, according to KSL meteorologist Kevin Eubank.

Tooele, 15 inches; Layton (east), 13 inches; Upper Millcreek, 16 inches; Sandy, 10 inches; Draper, 12 inches; and nearly a foot of snow in downtown Salt Lake City, which recorded 11 inches.

Because of snow-packed major roadways, the Utah Highway Patrol reported 217 crashes combined in Salt Lake, Utah and Davis counties, snarling traffic on freeways throughout the region between midnight and 10:30 p.m. Monday. The UHP said slower speeds kept most accidents relatively minor.

Snow continued throughout the day and night Monday and was expected to continue into Tuesday, said Utah Department of Transportation spokesman John Gleason.

"This is really our first major test as drivers for the season," he said. "Over the next two days, we're going to see quite a bit of snow. Tonight's and tomorrow morning's commute could be just as treacherous as this morning," he said Monday afternoon.

(Photo: Ravell Call, Deseret News)
(Photo: Ravell Call, Deseret News)

Some schools are planning to open later Tuesday or cancel classes all together for the storm that is expected to last through the morning, but clear by noon across the Wasatch Front

The Davis and Canyons school districts said Monday evening that school will start two hours later than usual Tuesday — except for kindergarten and preschool classes, which are cancelled.

The Tooele School District cancelled Tuesday morning kindergarten classes and said all others school schedules except afternoon kindergarten would be delayed two hours.

Jordan School District planned to keep all schools open, while noting it would "understand and respect" the wishes of parents who keep children home because of the weather. Any changes to that decision would be posted on www.jordandistrict.org, the district said.

Nearly a foot of snow in Farmington didn't stop 11-year-old Ethan Peterson, however, as he headed out to school Monday on his unicyle — wearing shorts, to the dismay of his mother, Dorene Peterson.

"I was not home when he left, or I would have made him put warmer clothes on," she said. "I don't know what he was thinking … but he was excited. Yesterday, when he found out it was going to snow, he told me he wanted to ride his unicycle in the snow. I thought he was kidding."

Ethan made it to school without incident, but the same could not be said for hundreds of other Utahns.

Traffic, power impact

Although Gleason said no major crashes had occurred through the morning, slide-offs and other minor fender benders have aggravated traffic and slowed snowplow efforts "across the board," even though he said several hundred plows were in operation.

TRAX experienced delays of 10 to 15 minutes on the Red and Blue lines and on FrontRunner. Salt Lake City International Airport officials also urged travelers to check their flight status online before leaving for the airport, although no serious delays or cancellations were reported.

Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Todd Royce said conditions will likely worsen Tuesday morning, after roads ice over during the night.

"As roads start to freeze, that's where our big worry is," he said. "Roads start to look clear and people's speeds increase, and that's when we get the severe crashes. But tomorrow morning is going to get bad — we don't want to let our guards down," he said Monday.

A car sits in the median on I-80, on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley, after a large winter storm dumped snow along the Wasatch Front on Monday, Dec. 14, 2015. (Photo: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)
A car sits in the median on I-80, on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley, after a large winter storm dumped snow along the Wasatch Front on Monday, Dec. 14, 2015. (Photo: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

The National Weather Service reported additional snow accumulations of 8 to 16 inches in northern mountains, 6 to 10 inches in northern valleys, and 3 to 6 inches in southwestern valleys.

In addition to one- to two-hour delays on some freeways — including from the Point of the Mountain to the south interchange and along the east bench — thousands of Utahns also experienced power outages.

Rock Mountain Power reported an outage affecting 1,041 customers in Bluffdale and Draper. Another 7,718 customers were without power until 11 a.m. in Cedar Fort and Eagle Mountain.


As roads start to freeze, that's where our big worry is. ... tomorrow morning is going to get bad — we don't want to let our guards down.

–UHP Sgt. Todd Royce


Outages affecting more than 1,000 homes also occurred Monday in Riverton, Clearfield, Layton, Bluffdale, Draper, Beaver County and parts of southern Weber County.

Power was restored to all locations except in Beaver County. Rocky Mountain Power did not have an estimate for those homes.

Restrictions and safety

Gleason urged motorists to slow down, and, if they are involved in a crash, pull off to the side of the road.

"The safest thing to do is move your vehicle out of harm's way, because if you've hit an icy patch, there's a good chance someone else will hit that same patch," he said. "If your vehicle won't move, stay in your vehicle, put your seatbelt on and call for help. Do not get out of your vehicle to inspect damage."

"We've seen too many terrible incidents, fatalities, (involving) people getting out of their car after getting in a crash."

Four-wheel drive or chains were required on vehicles traveling through Parleys Canyon and Big and Little Cottonwood canyons.

Unified Police Lt. Lex Bell said while the roads are wet and slippery, traffic in the canyons was flowing well. Plows worked through the night to keep the canyon roadways clear in anticipation of the snow, he said.

"(We're much worse off on the south end of the valley near the river bottoms and the east bench right now," Bell said on KSL Newsradio. "The canyons are pretty busy, but traffic is going well. No need for closures and no reports of major backings or slide-offs."

"They're getting plenty of people going up there to enjoy that powder," he added. "I expect it to be like that for the next two days."

Closures, delays

To discourage motorists from driving icy roads on Salt Lake's east bench, Hogle Zoo closed Monday, canceling ZooLights events.

"It's for the safety of our guests and staff," said zoo spokeswoman Erica Hansen. "We want to keep as many people off the side of the hill as we can."

Hansen added animals, including the tigers, snow leopards and polar bears, will revel in the snow, while other animals that would prefer to stay dry will stay "toasty and warm" indoors.

"We hope we'll be back up and running tomorrow" she said. "But we'll have to wait and see what the weather holds."

All Salt Lake City library locations also closed at 3 p.m. Monday.

School closures included Mana Academy Charter School in West Valley City and Intermountain Christian School in Holladay.

The University of Utah and Salt Lake Community College cancelled all classes and finals scheduled for 5:30 p.m. or later Monday.

While most schools remained open on regular times, some delayed start times until 10 a.m., including East Hollywood High School in West Valley City and Legacy Preparatory Academy South Campus K-4 in North Salt Lake.

Both Eastwood Elementary and Oakridge Elementary were also delayed until 10 a.m., according to Granite School District.

"We want parents to be able to exercise the best decisions for their families, so we've given direction to principals to be lenient when we have a weather situation like today," Granite School District spokesman Ben Horsley said.

He said schools refrain from issuing snow days whenever possible, believing its in the best interest for students who may rely on school lunches or would otherwise remain home alone while their parents go to work.

However, he did indicate that some parents at Churchill Junior High have checked their kids out of school to go skiing.

"It's a strange day to say the least," Horsley said.

School closures

School closures included Mana Academy Charter School in West Valley City and Intermountain Christian School in Holladay.

The University of Utah cancelled all classes and finals scheduled for 5:30 p.m. or later, according to U. spokeswoman Maria O'Mara.

Closures/delays planned for Tues AM

  • Rowland Hall will be closed
  • Canyons School District plans a 2-hour late start for all schools
  • Davis County School District plans a 2-hour late start for all schools
  • Tooele County School District plans a 2-hour late start for all schools except those in Wendover and Ibapah

Several private and charter schools have also announced late starts. Please check with your child's school for specific delays and start times.

While most schools remained open on regular times, some delayed start times until 10 a.m., including East Hollywood High School in West Valley City and Legacy Preparatory Academy South Campus K-4 in North Salt Lake.

Both Eastwood Elementary and Oakridge Elementary were also delayed until 10 a.m., according to Granite School District.

"We want parents to be able to exercise the best decisions for their families, so we've given direction to principals to be lenient when we have a weather situation like today," Granite School District spokesman Ben Horsley told "The Doug Wright Show" Monday morning.

He said schools refrain from issuing snow days whenever possible, believing its in the best interest for students who may rely on school lunches or would otherwise remain home alone while their parents go to work.

However, he did indicate that some parents at Churchill Junior High have checked their kids out of school to go skiing.

"It's a strange day to say the least," Horsley said.

Ski resorts

Ski Utah spokesman Paul Marshall said Monday's storm bodes well for skiers across the entire state

"It's perfect timing for our busy season right around the corner," he said. "This will make sure resorts will operate at 100 percent."

Snowbasin Resort enjoyed a "monster dump," he said, with roughly 12 inches of snow.

Ski Utah's daily snow report recorded the following snow measurements:

  • Alta — 5 inches
  • Brian Head — 7 inches
  • Brighton — 7 inches
  • Deer Valley — 6 inches
  • Nordic Valley — 8 inches
  • Park City — 5 inches
  • Powder Mountain — 8 inches
  • Snowbasin — 12 inches
  • Snowbird — 5 inches
  • Solitude — 6 inches
  • Sundance — 7 inches

Avalanche watch

While skiers will be heading to the peaks to enjoy the fresh powder, authorities have issued an avalanche watch in the northern and central mountains of Utah.

The U.S. Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center reported Sunday that dangerous avalanche conditions were expected to begin Monday and last throughout the week in southeast Idaho, the Bear River Range, the Western Uintas and the Wasatch Plateau.

Danger will be greatest on mid- and upper-elevation slopes facing west and north, the forest service reported.

The advisory did not apply, however, to ski areas where avalanche control is normally conducted.

Photos

Related Links

Related Stories

Katie McKellar

    SIGN UP FOR THE KSL.COM NEWSLETTER

    Catch up on the top news and features from KSL.com, sent weekly.
    By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to KSL.com's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

    KSL Weather Forecast