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New Year's winter storm causes dangerous driving conditions

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SALT LAKE CITY — The new year kicked off to a frosty start in Utah, with a fresh cover of white and a storm warning in effect across a large portion of the state.

Sparkling snow gave way to rain Wednesday before temperatures were expected to dip back below freezing, potentially coating roadways with black ice for Utahns returning to work Thursday morning.

And more snowflakes will fly. The storm is set to linger through Thursday evening, depositing an additional 1 to 3 inches in the Salt Lake Valley and up to 12 inches in the mountains, said KSL meteorologist Dan Guthrie.

On Wednesday, snow began falling in Utah’s northernmost counties before blanketing Salt Lake City and its suburbs, causing cars to slide from slick roads.

During a midday break in the weather, young Utahns took advantage of patchy snow in Salt Lake City’s Liberty Park, grinning as they flew downhill on sleds and building a snowman with a hat made of leaves.

Grant Wayman, another KSL meteorologist, urged Utahns to take advantage of the holiday and cozy up on the couch as snowflakes fell outside Wednesday morning.

“If you don’t really need to be out and about this morning, let the plows do their thing and just stay at home,” he said.

Not everyone could take his advice.

Troopers recorded 107 crashes across the state through Wednesday afternoon, with none serious enough to clog traffic, said Utah Highway Patrol Cpl. Colton Freckleton.

The icy conditions early Wednesday forced several cars to slide from I-15 in Sandy, the city’s fire department reported. Traffic in and out of nearby Little Cottonwood Canyon was temporarily halted after a slideoff into a creek there, the Utah Department of Transportation said.

Still, many braved the forecast in search of fresh powder.

“We’re starting the New Year right,” Huntsville’s Snowbasin Resort boasted on Facebook, reporting 54 inches of snowfall at its base.

“It’s incredible weather,” said Davy Ratchford, the resort’s general manager. “In Utah right now, the snowpack is great. It’s going to lead us straight into summer all throughout the state, and we’re just really blessed to have the greatest snow on Earth.”

His renewed excitement comes on the heels of Snowbasin’s 2019 season, one of its top three ever, with more than 450 inches of snow in all and record visitation, he said.

About an hour’s drive away at Park City Mountain Resort, skiers and snowboarders also had reason to celebrate, with base snowfall at 35 inches.

Roadway restrictions

Roadway restrictions are in place in:

  • Box Elder County
  • Cache County
  • Big Cottonwood Canyon
  • Little Cottonwood Canyon
  • Parley's Canyon

All commuters planning to drive through the canyons should have chains on their tires or 4-wheel drive, the Utah Department of Transportation said. Restrictions for Sardine Canyon were lifted around 4:45 p.m.

Meanwhile, the Utah Avalanche Center warned of heightened danger across the state.

“With the avalanche conditions on the rise, we’re going to need to dial it back a little bit. We need to give the snow time to adjust,” said forecaster Trent Meisenheimer.

He warned winter sports enthusiasts to avoid slopes steeper than a 30% grade in the coming days. Warmer, sunnier weather is expected this weekend.

Contributing: Mike Anderson, KSL TV


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