Strong cold front brings heavy snow, slick roads in Utah

Motorists drive through the snow on 400 South in Salt Lake City on Monday night.

Motorists drive through the snow on 400 South in Salt Lake City on Monday night. (Carter Williams, KSL.com)


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SALT LAKE CITY — Another set of storms arrived Monday evening as it appears Utah will have a chilly, stormy end to 2021.

The National Weather Service issued winter storm warnings for Utah's mountains from Nephi northward, as well as by Zion National Park in southern Utah. Most of the rest of the state was listed within a winter weather advisory.

The latest storm also had the potential to dump over a foot of the snow in Utah's mountains, as well as a few inches in Utah's valleys from Logan to St. George, according to the weather service.

Icy roads slowed the Tuesday morning commute in many areas, with multiple slide offs and crashes reported. Three wrecks involving four semi trucks temporarily closed northbound I-15 near Nephi, the Utah Highway Patrol said.

Snow and cold

The storm reached Utah on Monday as yet another portion of the atmospheric pattern that came to Utah last week. It's already dumped almost 2 feet of snow in some parts of the Wasatch Mountains, including nearly 15 inches of snow by Snowbird Resort in Little Cottonwood Canyon from a storm that arrived late Saturday into Sunday.

Utahns would deal with some strong wind gusts again before the latest storm arrived Monday, said KSL meteorologist Grant Weyman.

"The real heart of this thing gets here in the late afternoon," he said. "(By early Monday evening), we're expecting the snow to really get going for the northern Wasatch Front — the rest of the Wasatch Front, through the evening, and then it's the middle of the state — the mountains, the valleys down south and west through late tonight. Yes, even St. George, we're expecting some snow for you as well."

The winter storm warning for the Wasatch Mountains went into effect at 8 a.m., as some snow was already falling there before the heart of the storm arrived. It remains in effect through 8 a.m. Tuesday. About 10 to 18 inches are expected to fall during that time in areas like Alta, Brighton, Logan Summit, Mantua and the Mirror Lake Highway.

Another warning for areas near Zion National Park, such as Springdale, went into effect late Monday afternoon. About 5 to 9 inches of snow is expected to fall there overnight into Tuesday morning.

But valleys from Logan to St. George are also expected to receive some snow. The winter weather advisories call for about 2 to 5 inches of snow for most valleys across the state, with some higher totals in northern Utah communities, like Brigham City and Logan. "Locally higher amounts" are also expected in the Wasatch Back communities, such as Heber City, Huntsville and Park City.

St. George is forecast to receive anywhere from a trace of snow up to 2 inches, according to a weather service forecast model tweeted Sunday night. The agency added some higher-elevation suburbs of the city may receive up to 3 inches.

Snow isn't the only factor associated with the storm. Tuesday morning may also produce some of the coldest temperatures parts of Utah have seen since the start of the water new year, back on Oct. 1.

Overnight lows are forecast to drop into the teens across the Wasatch Front, and the single digits for communities within northern Utah, eastern Utah and the Wasatch Back. It's expected to even fall to below zero in places like Randolph. Tuesday morning lows may even reach the freezing point in St. George.

"Then it's just plain cold the rest of the week," Weyman said.

Travel impacts

There are already some roads in Utah that have been impacted by the snow that's already fallen. U.S. Highway 191 is closed at the Utah-Wyoming border, while portions of state Routes 143 (Iron County) and 31 (Sanpete and Emery counties) are also closed with no estimated clearing times.

Traction laws are also in effect at Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons. A shutdown of I-15 in Utah County near Lehi earlier Monday as a result of "emergency repairs" related to a fallen light pole resulted in long delays.

Roadway restriction chains were required for semi-trucks on U.S. Highway 6 through Spanish Fork Canyon from milepost 232 to 177, according to UDOT updates.

But many of Utah's other roads are expected to be impacted by the latest storm coming in. In fact, Weyman advised anyone planning to drive Monday to wrap it up by the early afternoon if they could, just because the heart of the storm was expected to produce tricky driving conditions.

The weather alerts stated a "cold strong front" was expected to pass through Monday afternoon into the night, producing "very heavy snow" impacted Monday evening commutes.

The Utah Department of Transportation issued a road weather alert, noting that commutes would begin to experience impacts between 2 and 6 p.m. across northern Utah and the Wasatch Front. It adds that travel will also be impacted in central and southern Utah between 9 p.m. Monday and 3 a.m. Tuesday.

"Widespread road snow is expected overnight with significant road impacts for northern Utah throughout the evening commute. Heavy road snow should be anticipated for many mountain routes across the state," the agency wrote in the alert. "Very cold (temperatures) and blustery winds behind the front will create blowing snow and ice concerns overnight and into Tuesday morning for much of the state."

The weather service issued a brief snow squall warning for parts of northern Utah, including Clearfield, Ogden and Brigham City, as a result of "white-out conditions" on roadways. Similar alerts may be issued at periodic times through the evening.

These are the routes that are expected to be most heavily impacted Monday afternoon into Tuesday morning:

  • I-15: Utah-Idaho border to Scipio Summit to Black Ridge Canyon
  • I-80: Tooele County to Utah-Wyoming border
  • I-84: Entire route in Utah
  • I-70: Cove Fort to Fremont Jct. (milepost 86)
  • U.S. Highway 6: Utah-Nevada border to Price
  • U.S. Highway 40: Entire route in Utah
  • U.S. Highway 89: Entire route in Utah
  • U.S. Highway 189: Entire route in Utah
  • U.S. Highway 191: Utah-Wyoming border to Price, Monticello to Blanding
  • Big Cottonwood Canyon: Entire route
  • Little Cottonwood Canyon: Entire route
  • State Route 14: Entire route
  • State Route 20: Entire route
  • State Route 46: La Sal Summit to Utah-Colorado Border
  • State Route 143: Entire route
  • State Route 153: Entire route
  • State Route 199: Entire route

While not included in the UDOT alert, the weather service warning stated that travel may end up "very difficult to impossible" along parts of state Route 9, especially by Zion National Park.

The Deseret News also reported there are dozens of delayed or canceled flights at Salt Lake City International Airport as a result of both weather and staffing issues. Airport officials tweeted that crews were "pretreating" runways Monday afternoon in preparation for the incoming storm so that airplanes can continue to arrive and depart from the airport.

As of 9 p.m. Monday, Utah Highway Patrol had responded to 75 crashes across the state, according to Sgt. Cameron Roden.

Avalanche warning issued

With "heavy dense snowfall" and strong winds expected, the Utah Avalanche Center issued an avalanche warning for Utah's mountains and backcountry that remains in effect throughout Monday into Tuesday morning.

"Both human-triggered and natural avalanches are likely," the alert states. "Stay off of and out from under slopes steeper than 30 degrees."

The center posted about another half-dozen reported avalanches over the holiday weekend.

What's on deck

The incoming storm isn't the end of the atmospheric pattern. More snow is expected later into the week, including New Year's Eve, Weyman said.

"You might recall, before Christmas, we were saying, 'it looks like one storm after another' all the way through the end of the year' — it is looking like that is playing out," he said.

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

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