Our drivers are ready. Our equipment is ready and we just want to make sure the people out there driving on those roadways are ready. – Jason Davis, Utah Department of Transportation director of operations
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah saw its first valley snowfall of the season Thursday after days of chilly temperatures in the low 20s.
“You can tell by the temperatures, winter has arrived. Those fall weather patterns that we had — that were great — are gone,” said Jason Davis, Utah Department of Transportation director of operations.
Flakes fell in the Salt Lake Valley throughout the day Thursday. Snow stuck on the ground in Utah County and northern Utah received up to 2 inches. Ogden residents were outside shoveling snow, including Duane McCoy, who welcomed the weather.
"It's different than summer — the heat, the sweat. You get a chance to kick back and cool down a little bit," he said. "I love winter. I'm from Dayton, Ohio, and I just love winter."
Utah transportation experts say they are prepared for whatever the wind may blow their way this winter.
“Our drivers are ready. Our equipment is ready, and we just want to make sure the people out there driving on those roadways are ready,” Davis said.
Slick roads contributed to a series of traffic accidents Thursday, including 35 accidents reported in Box Elder County, one of which was fatal crash, 34 more in Weber County, and 16 in Davis County.
Accidents were reported on freeways in Salt Lake County Thursday night as falling temperatures froze the wet roads. The I-80 off-ramp at Wright Brothers' Drive was closed at 9 p.m. when as many as five cars slid off the road, one of which hit a Utah Highway Patrol vehicle. The trooper was uninjured.
Crashes were also reported on Redwood Road, Bangerter Highway, I-215 and state Route 201.
Following the first day of winter crashes, UDOT officials offered tips for Utah drivers to help them stay safe through the rest of the season.
Make sure tire pressure, lights, vehicle fluid levels, wiper blades, hoses and belts are ready for the season. Check road conditions, either online or by using the UDOT traffic app.
Keep necessities in your car, such as a flashlight with extra batteries, tow strap, tire chains, ice scraper, jumper cables, snow shovel, blankets, water and nonperishable food, a first aid kit, matches, a candle and extra clothing and gloves.
Clear snow and ice from headlights, windows and brake lights. Watch for other cars, make sure your vehicle is visible and buckle your seat belt.
Slow down and be aware of your surroundings, roadways and weather conditions, Davis said. Do not use cruise control in bad weather. If a snowplow is out, do not try to pass it.
"The road, I guarantee, is going to be better behind the snowplow than it is in front of it," he said.
The Utah Department of Public Safety sent out its own tips on Twitter Thursday, including reminders to increase following distance in bad weather and to "take it slow" in ice and snow.
Call 911 if you are stranded in bad weather.
In case of accidents
After a collision, "don't stay in an area that another accident may happen in," Davis said. Instead, drive to the closest freeway exit if possible.
If you cannot drive your vehicle off the freeway, stay in your vehicle until help arrives, he said.
Citizen report app
UDOT will offer its citizen report app again this year. Utahns can download the free UDOT Citizen Report app and — after a short online training — sign up for a route and report on road conditions. At least 500 people in Utah have signed up to report.
In addition to receiving vital roadway information, Utahns can track the movement of a storm by scrolling over each reported area.
UDOT spokeswoman Lisa Miller reminded those using the app to "never report while they're driving."
Friday, temperatures should heat up to the upper 40s throughout the Wasatch Front, with some accompanying rain. Residents can expect snow again Saturday morning, according to KSL meteorologist Grant Weyman. Sunday should bring clear skies and temperatures back down in the 30s.
Contributing: Shara Park
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: whitevs7