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SALT LAKE CITY — The National Weather Service on Wednesday upgraded some of its winter storm watches to winter storm warnings and issued new winter weather advisories for Utah's low-elevation areas ahead of a system that could bring up to 2 feet of snow in some of the state's mountains by the end of the workweek.
The new warning covers mountain areas from the Wasatch Mountains to the Southern Mountains. The weather service office in Grand Junction, Colorado, which oversees weather projections in eastern Utah, also issued a winter storm warning Wednesday for various parts of eastern Utah.
A few inches of snow are also expected across valleys in the state — something that hasn't happened since late March. Winter weather advisories were issued for valley areas from northern Utah through southern Utah.
The storm, which follows a weaker storm system that passed through on Monday, started "taking shape" in the Pacific Northwest, according to KSL meteorologist Kevin Eubank. He added some parts of northern Utah may receive showers the rest of Wednesday but the brunt of the storm is expected to arrive Thursday as a low-pressure system will push the storm from the west toward most of Utah.
"There's plenty of moisture and cold air for snow for most of the day Thursday across the entire state," he said. "On Friday, cold air coming over the (Great Salt Lake) is going to keep lake-enhanced snow bands going across the mountains of northern Utah and the valley. By Friday night, it all shuts off."
Winter storm warnings were issued by the Salt Lake City office of the weather service for the Wasatch Mountains south of I-80, the Wasatch backcountry, the West Uintas, the Central Mountains and the Southern Mountains, where anywhere from 8 inches to over 2 feet of snow are forecast.
The warnings include places like Alta, Alton, Brian Head, Brighton, Cove Fort, Fish Lake, Heber City, Huntsville, Joes Valley, Mirror Lake Highway, Moon Lake and Park City. All of the alerts go into effect early Thursday morning and remain in place for most of the day Thursday. The warning for the Wasatch Mountains will remain in effect through Friday afternoon.
The weather service office in Grand Junction on Wednesday issued a winter storm warning for areas of northeast Utah, including Dutch John and Manila in Daggett County, that goes into effect Thursday morning and remains in place through Friday evening. Snow accumulations up to 1 foot of snow are expected along with 40 mph wind gusts.
The office also issued similar alerts for a section of the state northeast of Green River and a section containing Monticello.
The most impactful snow event so far this season will last through Thursday. For valleys, rain is expected to start, but a transition to snow will follow. Lake-effect snow is likely in the Salt Lake Valley Friday morning, but confidence is low in precise location. #utwx#wywxpic.twitter.com/JHlGk5zbZd— NWS Salt Lake City (@NWSSaltLakeCity) December 9, 2021
The winter storm watches previously issued for valley areas were adjusted to advisories. The advisories cover northern Utah, the Wasatch Front, as well as valleys in central and southern Utah. Again, most remain in place all of Thursday but the advisory remains in place.
Snow totals are expected to range from 2 to 8 inches in those areas, with the heavier amounts expected in the Tooele and Utah valleys. Salt Lake City is also in line to receive 5 to 8 inches of snow. Utah's capital city hasn't received measurable snow accumulation since March 25.
Benches along the Wasatch Front may receive close to a foot of snow, too. Another winter weather advisory covering parts of northern Utah and southwest Wyoming, including Logan Summit, Mantua and Evanston, Wyoming. In an updated alert, the agency wrote that mountains in the area may receive 6 to 14 inches of snow, with higher amounts expected between I-80 and I-84.
Valleys in the Uinta County, Wyoming portion of the alert may receive anywhere from 5 to 10 inches of snow. Some valleys on the Utah side of the alert area are only expected to receive a few inches of snow from the storm.
The storm is anticipated to impact travel, as well. The weather service said drivers should expect "very difficult" travel conditions across warning areas and possible "hazardous conditions" for roads within advisories.
🛻❄️An impactful weather system is forecast for Thu. Accumulating snow is likely on mountain passes including in the Cottonwoods & on Parleys Summit. Travelers during the Thu morning commute should drive slow & leave extra space between you and the vehicle in front of you. #UTwxpic.twitter.com/QMBdU1DqOr— NWS Salt Lake City (@NWSSaltLakeCity) December 7, 2021
That means difficult winter driving conditions are expected on all roadways in higher elevation, such as Parleys Canyon and the Cottonwood canyons. However, the Utah Department of Transportation warned Wednesday that drivers should prepare for "impaired travel concerns" on I-15 from Salt Lake County through Iron County, especially Thursday through Friday morning.
Road Weather Alert: A winter storm will affect much of Utah beginning tonight and lasting through Friday morning. For more info: https://t.co/4P1gO1U0Gg#utwx#utsnow@UtahTruckingpic.twitter.com/uBaTLbQjBM— UDOT Traffic (@UDOTTRAFFIC) December 8, 2021
The agency added that minor and intermittent weather-related travel impacts are expected throughout most of the state during that time as well.
"You're going to get your first test of winter driving in the valleys Thursday morning and Thursday night in the evening commute," Eubank said.
The Utah Department of Public Safety has a list of winter driving safety tips that can be found here.
The storm may impact schools Thursday and Friday, as well. For example, the Tooele County School District tweeted Wednesday afternoon that schools in Dugway will move over to online learning Thursday "due to incoming winter weather conditions."
Avalanche risk remains low
The Utah Avalanche Center, as of Wednesday afternoon, still rates Utah's avalanche risk as low. Some of that has to do with the fact that the snow that fell in October has already melted.
Still. the agency advises those heading outdoors to "watch for and avoid snow on isolated terrain features."
"As always, carry a transceiver, probe, shovel and have a partner when in the backcountry," experts added in an Instagram post. "Practice safe travel protocol by only exposing one person at a time to avalanche terrain."
More on the way?
Temperatures are also expected to plummet as a result of the storm. High temperatures are expected to top out in 40s in St. George and in the low-to-mid 30s across the Wasatch Front between Thursday and Saturday.
Those temperatures are expected to warm up heading into next week, when another storm providing rain and snow is currently forecast to arrive in Utah.
Full seven-day forecasts for areas across Utah can be found at the KSL Weather Center.