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Many road restrictions reported as winter storm dumps snow on Utah

A Utah Transit Authority bus drives through heavy snow on State Street in downtown Salt Lake City after tje winter storm moved in on Tuesday night. (Carter Williams, KSL.com)


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SALT LAKE CITY — If you felt Utah didn't get enough snow last week, another round of the "greatest snow on Earth" is heading to Utah on Tuesday, through Wednesday morning.

The National Weather Service again issued a slew of winter storm warnings and winter weather advisories for a storm that is expected to provide totals up to 1 to 2 feet of snow in the mountains across the state, as well as dump a few inches of snow across valleys statewide.

The initial warnings were issued for the state's mountain ranges; however, the weather service now includes valleys along the Wasatch Front, northern Utah, Tooele County and central Utah in a new warning issued Tuesday afternoon.

Snow began falling quickly on Tuesday evening, leading to many road restrictions across the Wasatch Front and beyond.

As of 9:30 p.m., chains, four-wheel drive or other traction devices are required for all vehicles on state Route 190 in Big Cottonwood Canyon and state Route 210 in Little Cottonwood Canyon, according to the Utah Department of Transportation. Traction devices are also required for all vehicles driving on U.S. Highway 89/91 in Sardine Canyon in Box Elder and Cache Counties, UDOT said.

Additionally, traction devices are required for eastbound commercial vehicles on I-80 in Parleys Canyon, UDOT said. In Summit County, state Route 224 is closed at Marsac Avenue due to winter conditions. In Iron County, state Route 143 between Parowan and Panguitch is closed from milepost 17-27, and traction devices are required for all vehicles from mileposts 4 to 51.

Shortly before 10 p.m., Rocky Mountain Power reported over 12,000 households were being affected by power outages in Utah, mostly in Salt Lake and Weber Counties.

The storm arriving in Utah now is a bit different from last week's storm, said KSL meteorologist Kevin Eubank. The system is moving from California, through Nevada into Utah, and not from the northwest.

Strong winds ahead of the storm produced gusts up to 89 mph in Ogden Peak. Westbound I-80 even closed for about an hour mid-morning Tuesday due to a semitruck being blown over west of Tooele, with only minor injuries reported, UDOT said. The agency warned of delays and urged drivers to consider using an alternate route if possible.

Dugway police warned that winds were blowing dust in parts of Tooele County, causing visibility issues Tuesday afternoon. A high wind warning issued for the area expires Tuesday evening.

Valley areas are expected to continue to experience rain through the evening until a cold front arrives later in the day.

"By (Tuesday) night, it changes over to snow. We get a quick burst in the overnight through early Wednesday morning and then it all moves out," Eubank said. "Highs will be in the 30s, lows will be in the teens."

The weather service offices in Salt Lake City and Grand Junction, Colorado, first issued winter storm warnings that cover high-elevation parts of the state. The warnings were originally set to go into effect at 5 p.m. Tuesday but went into effect immediately as the result of an update issued at 3 p.m.

The alerts, which expire late Wednesday morning, cover high-elevation areas from Logan Summit through the southern mountains and into eastern Utah. Alta, Alton, Brian Head, Brighton, Cove Fort, Dutch John, Fish Lake, Joes Valley, Manila and Scofield are among the communities listed in the warnings.

The warning states that 1 to 2 feet of snow are expected in Wasatch, Western Uinta, Central and Southern mountains ranges. The Abajo and La Sal Mountains in southeast Utah, as well as high-elevation areas in northeast Utah, are still forecast to receive 8 to 14 inches, according to warnings issued by the Grand Junction office.

The weather service also adjusted areas in central and northern Utah, including the Wasatch Front, from a winter weather advisory to a winter storm warning, too. Salt Lake City, Provo, Ogden, Tooele, Logan and Fillmore are among the communities now included in the warning, beginning at 8 p.m. The valley warnings also expire late Wednesday morning.

"Heavy snow (is) expected. Total snow accumulations of 2 to 5 inches valley floors, 4 to 8 inches benches, locally higher especially along the East Bench of Salt Lake County," the alert states.

The winter weather advisory covers most of the remaining parts of the state, including the Wasatch backcountry and parts of south-central Utah, also beginning at 8 p.m. and ending late Wednesday morning. Snow accumulations of 3 to 6 inches are expected in places like Heber City, Huntsville, Park City, Randolph and Woodruff, with totals possibly higher in Park City.

Snow accumulations of 3 and 6 inches are also forecast by Bryce Canyon National Park, while 1 to 3 inches are expected in other parts of south-central Utah, like Circleville, Koosharem, Panguitch, Richfield, Salina and Springdale.

All advisories expire late Wednesday morning.

Travel impact

More strong crosswinds that have impacted Tooele County and parts of western Utah on Tuesday are expected to subside in the valleys by Tuesday evening.

However, the weather service warns that gusts up to and over 50 mph are still expected in Utah's mountains with the storm. Meteorologists added that the wind gusts have the ability to "significantly reduce visibility" at times.

The alerts state that travel will be "difficult" late Tuesday night and Wednesday morning not just in the mountain areas but also in northern Utah, along the Wasatch Front, the I-15 corridor from Nephi to Beaver.

The Utah Department of Transportation urges drivers to use a "high" level of caution driving on I-15 from the Utah-Idaho state line in the north to Washington County near the state's southern border on Tuesday evening through early Wednesday afternoon. The same level of caution is advised for drivers on I-80 and I-84 for areas from the Wasatch Mountains eastward.

"If you must travel, keep an extra flashlight, food and water in your vehicle in case of an emergency," the weather service advises for areas within winter storm warnings.

Avalanche risk 'considerable'

For those heading into the mountains for recreation, the Utah Avalanche Center currently lists Utah's mountains as having "considerable" risk for avalanches.

Salt Lake County Emergency Management officials wrote in a Facebook post Tuesday that avalanches 1 to 3 feet deep can be triggered in some parts of a mountain.

"Areas of considerable danger exist on all steep northwest to east-facing slopes at the mid and upper elevations," the post read. "This terrain is to be avoided. ... Dangerous avalanche conditions exist in the backcountry. Sensitive hard and soft wind drifts are likely to develop in steep terrain over the next 24 hours. Natural avalanches will be possible with extensive wind drifting."

Not over yet

But that's not the end of the snow this week. Eubank said another storm is currently forecast to arrive in northern and central Utah on Thursday, likely impacting morning commutes and evening travel, too.

The forecast may provide travel headaches but bodes well for the statewide snowpack. The Natural Resources Conservation Service reported that Utah's snowpack is at 56% of normal as of Monday evening.

"The mountains are refreshing and that's a good thing," Eubank said.

Full seven-day forecasts for areas across Utah can be found at the KSL Weather Center.

Contributing: Jacob Klopfenstein

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