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SALT LAKE CITY — A small storm that passed through northern Utah on Wednesday and early Thursday produced as much as another 15 inches of snow in the Wasatch Mountains near Logan and a half-foot of snow in the Providence area, according to the National Weather Service.
Meteorologists say it was an appetizer to another winter storm arriving in the state Thursday night into Friday morning. The weather service issued a winter storm warning for a storm that has the potential to deliver 1 to 2 feet of snow or more in Utah's mountains.
The storm is expected to be milder in the valleys, even producing up to an inch of rain in lower-elevation areas. However, that is also raising some flooding concerns, especially as temperatures begin to warm up after a cold start to the year.
Incoming wind, rain and snow
The storm is expected to arrive either late Thursday night or early Friday morning, impacting northern Utah before the rest of the state, said KSL meteorologist Matt Johnson. The system will build up through the morning, providing a mix of valley rain and mountain snow by the morning commute.
"It will continue throughout the day in waves and periods of valley rain and mountain snow," he said. "The valley rain continues (into Friday night) as a cold front tries to move on through, and then (the storm) extends down into central and southern Utah by Saturday morning."
The winter storm warning states that multiple feet of snow may end up falling in the mountains.
- Twelve to 22 inches of snow or more are possible in the Wasatch Mountains south of I-80 and in the western Uinta Mountains, including Alta, Brighton and Scofield. The highest amounts are expected in the upper Cottonwood canyons, the mountains in Utah County and the west Uintas. Wind gusts may also reach 70 mph or more on exposed ridgetops.
- Ten to 20 inches of snow are projected for the central and southern mountains, including areas like Alton, Brian Head, Cove Fort, Fish Lake and Joes Valley. Wind gusts could range from 55 mph to 65 mph.
- Nine to 18 inches of snow or more are forecast in the Wasatch Mountains north of I-80, including Mantua and Logan Summit. Wind gusts may also reach 65 mph on exposed ridgetops.
The weather service warns that travel may be "very difficult to impossible" at times in the mountain areas, especially on Friday evening.
"Patchy blowing snow could significantly reduce visibility (and) strong winds could bring down tree branches," the alert states. "If you must travel, keep an extra flashlight, food and water in your vehicle in case of an emergency."
If there is any valley snow produced by the storm, it will be small. The snow line may end up at about 6,500 to 8,000 feet on Friday.
But the storm has the potential to deliver a quarter of an inch to 1 inch or more of rain across the state by noon Saturday, Johnson said. The higher totals are expected in the southern portion of the Wasatch Front into central Utah.
It's also expected to be windy in the valleys Friday. The weather service issued a wind advisory for the Wasatch Front and Tooele Valley into southern Utah, where sustained winds of 20 to 35 mph and gusts of up to 55 mph are forecast in those areas.
Flooding and avalanche caution
KSL meteorologist Kevin Eubank explained that the rain could cause flooding issues in some communities this weekend.
"Anytime you bring in rain on top of snow, it exacerbates the potential for flooding because you're not only dealing with the water coming in the rain but you're dealing with all the water that's being melted in the snow," he said. "And beneath the snow is generally frozen ground, so it isn't like the ground can absorb that rain. ... The ground can't handle that water."
📢You may have heard that rain is forecast. This means rain will fall on snow for some.— NWS Salt Lake City (@NWSSaltLakeCity) March 9, 2023
What can you do in preparation?
❄️Make sure window wells are free from any snow
⚠️If you notice any debris blocking drains, remove the debris so water can freely move through. #UTwxpic.twitter.com/UT2kyMxZGP
He added that communities that currently have several inches or feet of snow on the ground are most at risk, such as parts of the Wasatch Back and northern Utah. The risk is lower in places that don't have as much snow on the ground.
It's why some communities are already taking precautionary measures.
Wellsville city officials, for instance, announced the city was holding a "sandbag filling party" at its maintenance building Thursday, where volunteers could fill up sandbags in preparation for any flooding "just in case" it begins this weekend. The sandbags, while supplies last, will be available for residents through the spring as long as flood risks remain in place.
With so much snow on rooftops in mountain communities, roof avalanches will be a significant hazard with more snow, warmer temperatures, and the potential for heavy rain. Both adults and children have been killed by roof avalanches.@NWSSaltLakeCity@NWSLosAngelespic.twitter.com/BsCqoybvJz— UtahAvalancheCenter (@UACwasatch) March 9, 2023
Avalanche danger is also expected to increase this weekend as a result of heavy snow.
This may impact more than just the slopes. The Utah Avalanche Center tweeted that "more snow, warmer temperatures and the potential for heavy rain" could cause "roof avalanches" from the rooftops of buildings with lots of snow.
The agency advises people to be "extra cautious" around these types of buildings this weekend.
A spring warmup?
These concerns may continue into next week because another system is forecast to arrive on Tuesday, bringing more valley rain and mountain snow.
Utah is also warming up as it heads into spring. Temperatures may reach the mid-50s along the Wasatch Front and possibly even the low-70s in the St. George area by Monday and Tuesday.
Full seven-day forecasts for areas across Utah can be found online, at the KSL Weather Center.
Contributing: Aimee Cobabe