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SALT LAKE CITY — Talk about an unwelcome holiday guest.
Wintry weather arrived just in time for rush hour Wednesday afternoon, blanketing much of the state as drivers sought to make it home and pick up gifts for loved ones.
And it isn't expected to pass through quickly.
More than a foot of snow was anticipated on parts of I-15 and I-70 in central Utah by Thursday afternoon. An apt beginning for the season, as the winter solstice occurs around 9:30 a.m. Thursday.
As sleet began to fall Wednesday, transportation managers cautioned travelers that slower is better during icy conditions.
"Be prepared for snow-packed roads," the National Weather Service warned in a winter weather advisory. "If you must travel, keep an extra flashlight, food and water in your vehicle in case of an emergency."
Snow is expected to extend down to Cedar City, according to UDOT and the National Weather Service's winter weather advisory.
"It started this afternoon in northern Utah, and it's been sliding south since then," said Dan Guthrie, KSL-TV meteorologist. He told drivers to expect dangerous conditions along mountain passes, especially those south of Nephi.
Snowfall was predicted to wind down late Wednesday, Guthrie said, then pick up again early Thursday.
The Utah Highway Patrol was expecting up to hundreds of crashes by dawn.
"Speed is the biggest thing," said UHP Sgt. Todd Royce. "If you're driving down the road and you see a crash, that's an indicator to you to slow down" and allow more distance from the car ahead.
His agency has set aside an extra 100 troopers to respond to crashes and slide-offs through the rest of the week. By Wednesday evening, they already were hard at work.
More than a dozen accidents had occurred in Davis, Salt Lake, Utah and Tooele counties as of 8 p.m., the Utah Department of Transportation reported though Twitter.
In the event of a crash, Royce said, it's important to navigate to the nearest exit.
"The side of the road, especially during inclement weather, is not a safe place to be," Royce said, because a secondary crash can follow. If moving isn't possible, he said to remain buckled in your vehicle and call 9-1-1.
John Gleason, spokesman for UDOT, urged drivers Wednesday to reschedule planned trips. At the least, he said, they should make sure their tires have treads and their windshield wipers work.
Randy Graham, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said via Twitter that Wednesday's weather advisory, Utah's first this season, came later than usual.
In the past 13 years, the National Weather Service has issued its first winter weather advisory for Salt Lake City around Nov. 11.
Contributing: Payton Davis, Jed Boal