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Storm wallops Utah

Major snowstorm is a factor in more than 150 accidents

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A major snowstorm slammed into Utah Friday, triggering numerous accidents and closing college campuses.

By Friday evening the storm had already dropped 3 to 4 inches in Salt Lake City. Parts of Tooele saw up to 8 inches and Sandy reported 4.5 inches. The storm also hit northern Utah hard as Logan reported up to 7 new inches of snow.

Forecasts indicate that lake-effect snow could dump more in Salt Lake and Davis counties throughout the day Saturday.

Police and paramedics were flooded with accident reports all over the Salt Lake Valley throughout the afternoon and early evening. The University of Utah and Salt Lake Community College closed their campuses Friday afternoon because of the storm.

The Utah Highway Patrol was also bracing for accidents with so many people headed south to the Las Vegas Bowl where BYU takes on Arizona Saturday evening.

"We do expect increased traffic with the game and stuff, and we do expect a lot of crashes," UHP trooper Cameron Roden said Friday afternoon. "It depends on the timing of the storm."

The accidents came, especially in Salt Lake County. By 8 p.m. Friday troopers had already responded on 129 accidents or slide-offs in Salt Lake and 22 more in Utah County.

The biggest was an eight-car pileup at about 3:30 p.m. on I-80 near 7400 West. That wreck forced the closure of several lanes for about an hour. Drifting snow also forced the closure of a portion of state Route 92 near Alpine in Utah County. The road was plowed and quickly reopened.

Bizarre winter weather has left a couple of inches of snow on the ground in St. George and snow closed McCarran Airport in Las Vegas earlier this week. At the Salt Lake City International Airport, the weather was causing flight delays for the majority of the airlines operating out of Salt Lake City.

By early Friday evening, Southwest reported that 90 percent of its flights had been delayed and workers estimated that operations were from one to four hours behind schedule, according to airport officials. Officials also said Delta Air Lines estimated that 85 percent of its flights were delayed and SkyWest reported 11 diversions to Idaho or Colorado Friday afternoon. Workers were plowing snow throughout the storm and officials anticipated continuing overnight snow-removal operations.

The Utah Avalanche Center elevated the avalanche danger to high in the Wasatch Range and the Uinta Mountains.

"I'm very worried about today, through this weekend, and I think it will take a miracle for us to get through the next few days without another avalanche fatality," the U.S. Forest Service's Bruce Tremper said in a forecast posted Friday on utahavalanchecenter.org.

The Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office announced that Little Cottonwood Canyon will be shut down between 6 a.m. and at least 8 a.m. Saturday for avalanche control.

Contributing: Ethan Thomas

E-mail: bwinslow@desnews.com