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Utah's snowpack benefits from massive storm — and there's more on the way

Nick Tate pulls his daughter, Lily, 7, on a sled at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday. Utah's statewide snowpack received a significant boost as a result of the record-breaking storm system that impacted all of Utah this week.

Nick Tate pulls his daughter, Lily, 7, on a sled at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday. Utah's statewide snowpack received a significant boost as a result of the record-breaking storm system that impacted all of Utah this week. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's statewide snowpack, a calculation of the water within the snow at 114 mountain sites, jumped by nearly 1½ inches as a result of a storm that brought several feet of snow in the mountains Tuesday and Wednesday and more snow on Thursday.

The state snowpack rose to 18.1 inches of snow water equivalent, according to Natural Resources Conservation Service data accessed at noon Friday. That's up from 16.7 inches ahead of the storm. The figure is 154% of the normal for this point in the snow collection season and 114% of the normal seasonal snowpack.

The Provo-Utah Lake-Jordan snowpack basin led all individual basins, packing an additional 1.9 inches of water since Monday. That's not surprising, considering that the National Weather Service reported that Sundance Resort in Provo Canyon received 4 feet of snow between Wednesday and Friday, while a pair of resorts in Big Cottonwood Canyon also received more than 40 inches.

The basin, which accounts for the water supply in Salt Lake and Utah counties, is now up to 23.8 inches, 162% above normal for this point in the year.

The Weber-Ogden and Southwest Utah snowpack basins each tacked on 1.8 inches of water, as each remains well above the normal. While meteorological winter ends next week, there still is a little over one month left in the regular snowpack collection season. It typically wraps up in early April, which is when the snowmelt season begins.

Utah Division of Water Resources officials told earlier this month that they are hoping for the right conditions this spring that allows for water to flow efficiently into the state's reservoirs without flooding. The state's reservoir system remains at 52%, which is below the normal of 59% by late February; however, it's already above where it was at this time last year, according to the division's data.

A record-breaking storm

The storm system set some records below the mountains. The National Weather Service tweeted Friday that Tooele received 23 inches of snow on Wednesday, the most in a single day it has received since records were first kept in 1896. The previous record was 22 inches set 51 years ago.

It also set a record beyond the snow. The weather service also confirmed Friday that the storm system produced some of the lowest air pressure levels ever recorded in the West in February — and even all time.

Salt Lake City's air pressure dropped to 984.5 millibars, the lowest recorded in February since 1928. Cedar City's dropped to 981.7 millibars, the lowest pressure level recorded since records began in 1948, according to the agency. All-time records were also set in Grand Junction and Leadville, Colorado, as well as Flagstaff, Arizona.

Lower air pressures are typically associated with more powerful storm activity.

"A lot of times it's the air pressure that indicates how strong a storm really is," said KSL meteorologist Matt Johnson.

More snow on the horizon

While Friday and Saturday are expected to remain dry and possibly cloudy, there is more snow on the way.

Johnson said that a "historic" storm producing snow in southern California is headed toward Utah; however, he notes it is expected to "lose steam" as it moves east into the Beehive State. It's forecast to arrive in the southwest part of the state late Saturday night into early Sunday morning before impacting eastern Utah and parts of the Wasatch region later in the day.

The National Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory for the southwest corner of the state on Friday, which takes effect Saturday night and remains in place through Sunday afternoon.

It states that another 5 to 10 inches of snow or more are possible in the southern mountains, including Brian Head and higher elevations of Zion National Park. Lower-elevation communities like Bryce Canyon, Escalante, Kanab and Springdale could receive 1 to 5 inches of snow, as well. Wind gusts of up to 45 mph are also expected, with blowing snow.

Another system is expected to arrive in northern Utah later Sunday night into Monday morning, Johnson adds. Additional snow is expected Tuesday and Wednesday, as the active pattern continues. It's still unclear how much snow — and water — those storms will produce in Utah.

"It just keeps giving but no complaints, we need the water," he said.

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

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


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