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Winter blast wreaks havoc along Utah's Wasatch Front

SALT LAKE CITY — A major winter storm slammed the Wasatch Front Wednesday, bringing misery to Salt Lake commuters as it dropped as much as 18 inches of snow in some valley areas.

The snow showers that started Tuesday were expected to continue through Thursday morning, dropping another 1 to 3 inches in Davis, Tooele and Salt Lake counties, according to KSL meteorologist Kevin Eubank. Benches may see another 3 to 6 inches in the morning and mountains may see 4 to 8 inches.

In Salt Lake County, according to Eubank, Kearns, West Jordan and Cottonwood Heights all received 18 inches of snow, while Magna got 17 inches. West Valley City and Midvale both received 14 inches.

Katrina Welkr skis down J Street in the Avenues in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019.
Katrina Welkr skis down J Street in the Avenues in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019.
Laura Seitz, Deseret News

In Utah County, American Fork received 12 inches, Alpine received 14 inches and Pleasant Grove received 9 inches.

Meanwhile, ski resorts have received an abundance of snow this week. Brighton Crest got 66 inches, while Alta received 54, Solitude received 53 and Park City got 42 inches.

Since the major winter storm reached the Wasatch Front Tuesday, at least 420 crashes have been investigated by Utah Highway Patrol. Of those, 272 occurred Wednesday, including an 11-car pileup on southbound I-15 near the border between Davis and Salt Lake counties. The large crash shut the freeway down for two hours.

Snowplows across the valley had a hard time keeping up with the falling and blowing snow. Many major thoroughfares were icy or snowpacked while residential streets remained untouched. At one point, the drive time from Draper to Salt Lake City on I-15 was two hours, according to KSL traffic reporters.

In Spanish Fork, a Utah Highway Patrol trooper responding to a crash — with his patrol car lights and siren on — was involved in an accident when another car made a turn in front of him near 800 N. Main. The patrol car broadsided the other vehicle, said UHP Sgt. Nick Street. The trooper suffered minor back and neck pain, Street said. The other driver was not injured.

Already this year, nine troopers or their vehicles have been hit, Street said, and 12 have been hit since the winter season began around November.

It's the biggest winter storm this year, according to Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski. She praised the work of the "snow fighters," the nickname the city has given to snowplow drivers who help keep the roads clear.

"They certainly have been working around the clock and will continue to work around the clock," she said Wednesday at a news conference. "Do not put yourself at risk on the roads if you do not need to."

Salt Lake residents can track the city's snowplows on the city government's website.

Lisa Shaffer, the city's public services director, said the plows' focus Wednesday had been entirely on main roads and clearing access to fire stations, police stations and hospitals.

Though he, too, advised people to stay home if they can, Salt Lake Police Chief Mike Brown commended the drivers who were out Wednesday morning for being cautious.

Operations at Salt Lake City International Airport ran smoothly, according to communication director Nancy Volmer. Crews had been on site clearing runways since 1:30 a.m. Wednesday. She said some flight delays were reported because airplanes had to be de-iced.

Garbage collection in Salt Lake City was suspended and will be off by one day through Saturday.

Utah Transit Authority reported multiple delays Wednesday evening because of the winter conditions, said Carl Arky, UTA spokesperson. Delays are expected to continue if the snow continues, he said.

The storm also forced the closures of many schools, some of which have never closed due to weather.

The Canyons School District canceled classes and all after-school activities due to weather — a first in the district's 10-year history. Likewise, the Park City School District canceled classes due to weather. Since the 1970s, district spokeswoman Melinda Colton said there have only been a "handful" of days the district has canceled school due to weather.

Heather Parrish clears off her car during a snow storm in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019.
Heather Parrish clears off her car during a snow storm in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Classes were also canceled in the Granite, Jordan, Murray, Salt Lake City and Tooele school districts.

Some private and charter schools also canceled classes on Wednesday including Juan Diego, Mount Vernon Academy, Rowland Hall, Canyon Rim Academy and Providence Hall Charter Schools.

On the college level, the University of Utah canceled all morning classes and later announced that evening classes were canceled as well. Westminster College closed for the day, and Salt Lake Community College closed its doors until at least noon. LDS Business College also canceled classes.

Snow continues to fall as a storm hits the Wasatch Front on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019.
Snow from a winter storm falls along the Wasatch Front on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019.
Steve Griffin

The Salt Lake City Library system also closed for the day.