Facebook Twitter

Storm dumps snow, knocks out electricity

Traffic accidents hamper Wasatch Front commute

SHARE Storm dumps snow, knocks out electricity

Utah's first major snowstorm of the season dumped more than half a foot of snow in some neighborhoods along the Wasatch Front, knocking out electrical power for up to 15,000 residents and causing numerous traffic accidents.

Trees that still retained their fall foliage caught the heavy, wet snow, which broke branches or made them sag against power lines.

During the Thursday morning commute, a serious crash occurred on I-215 near 3500 South. Dispatchers hoped a helicopter could take the injured to a hospital, but the bad weather prevented flights, and an ambulance came instead.

"We've had quite a few injury accidents this morning and lots of non-injury accidents and slideoffs" in the Salt Lake area, said Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Doug McCleve. By 10 a.m. Thursday, he said, 40 or 50 vehicles were involved in weather-related accidents.

"People need to slow down," he cautioned. "That's the No. 1 piece of advice in this kind of weather." Often, drivers are late for work and speed up, then get into wrecks. Drivers should allow plenty of space between cars.

Separated by more than 90 miles, two semitrailers jackknifed on I-15, blocking lanes at Clearfield and Santaquin. Another truck jackknifed on westbound I-84 in Morgan County, which slowed traffic.

"We're pretty busy," Utah Power's Dave Eskelsen said Thursday morning. He estimated power outages hit 10,000 to 15,000 people. As some outages were repaired, "new ones have happened."

As commuters were driving to work on Thursday, thousands of homes and businesses remained without power, Eskelsen said.

"We've been working since about 7 o'clock last night in Idaho. We've had the towns of Ririe and Rigby out for about three hours."

The storm lunged from Idaho into Utah. "About midnight, things started happening in Ogden," he said. Tree limbs knocked out power in Ogden's east bench. By 6 a.m. most of Ogden's big power outages were corrected, although crews continued mopping up there as dawn came.

During the night, a vehicle skidded on a slick road in Ogden and slammed into a power pole, taking down power lines.

West Layton's lights went out about 10:30 p.m. and stayed off until about 12:30 a.m. Thursday. By morning, some parts of Davis, Box Elder and Cache counties counted 6 or 7 inches of snow.

In the Salt Lake region, the city's east bench was hard hit. "Lots of outages, seem to be concentrated in the Cottonwood-Holladay area, but also in Kearns and South Jordan," Eskelsen said. Outages extended to Orem and American Fork.

Black ice contributed to accidents.

William J. Alder, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service regional office on North Temple, said snow began accumulating in northern valleys between 6 and 7 p.m. It reached Salt Lake City just before midnight.

"The whole system is shifting south," he said. Heavy snow warnings are in place for mountainous areas through Thursday night, and snow advisories were posted for valleys.

Alder listed these snow totals, as of about 8 a.m. Thursday: upper Millcreek, 7 inches; Holladay, 6 to 7 inches; Parleys Summit at the top of Parleys Canyon, 6; Foothill Boulevard and Parleys Canyon, 7 to 8 inches; Centerville, 6; Ogden bench, 5; and Cache County, 1 to 2 inches.

Snowbird Resort in Little Cottonwood Canyon added about 9 inches to its snow depth, with more expected as snow continued Thursday. Resorts in Big Cottonwood Canyon were counting about 8 inches.

At the Salt Lake International Airport, 6 inches had fallen by 8 a.m. Sandy's snowfall was 6 to 7 inches. Other measurements: Clearfield, 4; South Ogden, 5; East Layton, 6: North Salt Lake and Bountiful bench, 8; Salt Lake avenues, 5; Tooele, 3: Wendover, 6; Woodland, Summit County, 5; Woodland Hills, Utah County, 6; Farmington Canyon, 10 at around the 7,700-foot level; Logan, 2; and Pleasant Grove, 3.

Snow showers are expected through Friday and Saturday. As the weekend starts, he said, "we don't see any definite clearing, although it won't snow all the time."

As the storm moved in Wednesday night, eight cars piled up along U.S. 89 in Layton. Public safety dispatcher Jeff Shumway said damage was minor. "Nobody was cited because weather (was) the problem," he said. Also in Summit County, a car rolled over on westbound I-80 near the Wyoming border. Nobody was hurt, said Chad Gunn, public safety dispatcher for the county.

McCleve said Tooele County roads were the site of many accidents as the snowstorm hit. "They're having multiple slide-offs" along I-80 near Wendover, he said. "Not really any crashes, but 10 to 15 slide-offs.

McCleve reminded drivers to allow themselves more time during the winter. "At night there's the possibility of black ice," he said. "If it's wet during the day, it generally freezes at night."

E-MAIL: bau@desnews.com