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Utah roads reopen after avalanches

By Nicole Gonzales | Posted - Jan. 24, 2010 at 4:45 p.m.


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SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah Avalanche Center is still warning people of high danger in Utah's mountains. Several canyons were closed temporarily Sunday for cleanup and control.

An avalanche forced the closure of Logan Canyon for a little over an hour. Little Cottonwood Canyon was also closed for a short time due to snow on the road.

Ryan Hunt saw the avalanche happen around 11 a.m. in Logan Canyon. "All the sudden we come around the corner and there was a truck that just stopped for the avalanche and there was some more snow sliding down behind him," he said.

Drivers didn't wait for help. They started digging out the snow themselves, anxious to make it up the canyon.

"They had sleds and snowboards and little shovels and everything they could think of. I even saw a pan out there," Hunt said.

The Utah Highway Patrol said no one was injured in that avalanche, which spread snow 20 feet wide and 4 feet deep across U.S. Route 89.

The Utah Department of Transportation closed the highway while crews cleaned up the mess. The road was back open by 12:30 p.m.

UDOT was also busy down in the Salt Lake Valley. Little Cottonwood Canyon was closed on and off for most of the morning.

It finally opened for good after three additional hours of avalanche control.

"We try to do it as quickly as possible. We want people to enjoy the ski resorts, after all we do have the greatest snow on Earth, but we want to make sure we do it in a safe manner," said UDOT spokesman Adan Carrillo.

UDOT does not make the decision to shut down a canyon alone. People from the town of Alta, along with the ski resorts, the U.S. Forest Service and the Unified Police Department have a say as well.

"Every time they see that there's a need to close a canyon, it's a pretty hard decision. They have to coordinate with a lot of officials," Carrillo said.

The Utah Avalanche Center has all Utah mountains on high alert Sunday, especially after a man was buried by one on Friday. Luckily, he got out alive, but officials say it's a reminder to always be cautious.

"I can barely run to my car, much less out run an avalanche. So we'll stay down here where it's safe," said snowshoer Robin Knebel.

The Unified Police Department said there were no planned restrictions on either canyon Sunday night.

E-mail: ngonzales@ksl.com

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