New Utah storm may produce over 2 feet of mountain snow; power companies brace for outages



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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's largest power provider is bracing for possible weather-related outages, as an atmospheric river is set to churn even more rain, snow and wind into the state to start the workweek.

Rocky Mountain Power officials said Sunday that they are monitoring the latest storm system moving into its service territory, which may be the largest storm yet this season. An advisory Sunday came before strong winds ahead of the storm blew mylar balloons into a Salt Lake City power substation early Monday, resulting in a widespread power outage that lasted a few hours.

The message also came before the National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for Utah's mountain ranges ahead of the storm. The power company warns that it could "produce a prolonged period of strong winds and moderate to potentially heavy precipitation starting early Monday morning through Wednesday." Its service range also includes Idaho and Wyoming.

"The company urges customers to follow recommendations of local and state emergency management officials in being prepared to be without essential public services for up to 72 hours for any emergency or disaster," officials wrote in a statement.

KSL meteorologist Matt Johnson said a jet stream is slowly pulling precipitation in from the Pacific Northwest, noting that the storm will "take its time" as it arrives in the Beehive State.

Strong winds to eventually die down

The National Weather Service's high-wind warning, which went into effect late Sunday, has since been downgraded to a wind advisory — but not before some strong winds across the state. The National Weather Service reported wind gusts as strong as 81 mph near Chepeta Lake in the Uinta Mountains.

Wind gusts also reached 68 mph at the Great Salt Lake Marina and 67 mph in nearby Tooele, according to the agency. The alert states that winds are expected to die down Monday night but increase again on Tuesday. Sustained southernly winds of 25 to 35 mph with gusts up to 55 mph are expected as the precipitation moves into the state.

The advisory remains in effect for most of western Utah through early Wednesday unless canceled before then.

Winter weather returns to Utah

Rain and snow showers are in the forecast for northern Utah on Monday afternoon, building up Monday night and into Tuesday.

"(Tuesday) morning could get a little tricky for the morning commute," Johnson said. "It's snow up towards Brigham City, even Cache Valley. You get south of that, it's hit or miss rain showers."

The precipitation is supposed to pick up through the day Tuesday across the state, producing mountain snow and valley rain — possibly even some thunderstorms. The rain is expected to transition into snow as colder air moves into the state on Wednesday, though most of the snow will still remain in the mountains.

The weather service initially issued a pair of winter storm watches for all of Utah's mountainous areas but upgraded those into winter storm warnings Monday afternoon. The agency still projects 1 to 2 feet of snow for the state's mountains, with "locally higher amounts" — above 2 feet possible in some places through the state's mountain ranges. The original alert warned of the possibility of up to 3 feet.

The warning goes into effect early Tuesday morning and remains in effect through 11 a.m. Thursday.

"(The) snow may be heavy at times, especially Tuesday afternoon into Wednesday," the agency tweeted Monday afternoon, adding that the snow is still expected to "gradually diminish on Thursday."

The agency also tweeted a model showing expected snowfall in elevations lower than the state's mountains. It shows there is a potential for 8 to 12 inches of snow to fall in Park City between Monday and Thursday morning, while another 4 to 6 inches is likely for Heber City. Cedar City in southwest Utah and Randolph in northeast Utah may receive 3 to 4 inches of snow, while valley communities across the Wasatch Front and Cache Valley are forecast to receive 1 to 3 inches of snow in that time, according to the updated model.

Between rain and snow, a KSL Weather model shows the storm has the potential to deliver over an inch of precipitation altogether in parts of the Wasatch Front, northern Utah and southwest Utah by Thursday morning, Johnson adds. Parts of eastern Utah receive anywhere from one-third to two-thirds of an inch, as well.

"(It's) a huge, great drink of water for the state of Utah that we desperately need," he said.

Drier weather is in the forecast to close out the workweek. Full seven-day forecasts for areas across Utah can be found online, at the KSL Weather Center.

This week's storm follows a prolific stretch of mountain snow in Utah. As of Monday afternoon, the state's snowpack remains at 398% of normal for this point in the water year, according to Natural Resources Conservation Service data. The water year began on Oct. 1.

The agency also lists mountain precipitation collection at 110% of this point in the water year. It was listed at 15% before the first storm of the season provided up to 2 feet of snow in some parts of the state two weeks ago.

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Carter Williams is an award-winning reporter who covers general news, outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com. He previously worked for the Deseret News. He is a Utah transplant by the way of Rochester, New York.

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