SALT LAKE CITY — A wet winter storm Saturday brought a little rain and snow to Utah following a dry December.
The National Weather service reported 0.3 inches of snow and 0.18 inches of rain at the Salt Lake City International Airport on Saturday, but the storm was expected to dry up overnight. The agency called the sleety conditions "a very rare phenomena for Utah" on Twitter and its website.
"Sleet occurs when snowflakes only partially melt when they fall through a shallow layer of warm air. These slushy drops refreeze as they next fall through a deep layer of freezing air above the surface, and eventually reach the ground as frozen rain drops that bounce on impact. Depending on the intensity and duration, sleet can accumulate on the ground much like snow," the National Weather Service explained.
The rest of the Salt Lake Valley recorded less than an inch of precipitation, as did cities to the north and south along the Wasatch Front.
The storm was just the outer edge of a weather system expected to sock western Colorado with up to 10 inches of snow in high country areas, according to the Associated Press. The Colorado Department of Transportation warned skiers and others recreating in the mountains in that state to consider heading home early to avoid dangerous driving conditions.
Saturday's storm came just two days after the Natural Resources Conservation Service called Utah's snowpack, especially in southwestern Utah, "beyond abysmal."
"This is one of the worst water years I've seen in my lifetime," Ron Thompson, general manager of the Washington County Water Conservancy District, said in a press release Thursday. "We can drive our entire watershed right now and kick up dust – that’s unprecedented for this time of year."
Randy Julander, snow survey supervisor for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, said there is less than a 20 percent chance that southern Utah will hit its normal snowpack levels this winter.
As of 3 p.m. Saturday, the National Weather Service reported that southern Utah's mountains had seen between 0.2 and 0.1 inches of precipitation during the storm.
The rain, snow and sometimes slush expected during the storm prompted the Utah Department of Transportation to warn drivers in northern, central and southern Utah — especially on mountain roads — to use caution on the roads through Sunday morning.
The moisture created treacherous roads for some Utah drivers, including about 16 drivers on state Route 89 who slid off near the mouth of Sardine Canyon due to freezing rain Saturday afternoon.
Additional rain and snow is forecast for the Wasatch Front on Tuesday and Wednesday.