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Snowstorm hits northern Utah, could snarl Wednesday morning commute

Storms are a welcome start to New Year

Snowplows clear 12300 South in Riverton as snow falls along the Wasatch Front on Friday, Dec. 10, 2021.
Snowplows clear 12300 South in Riverton as snow falls along the Wasatch Front on Friday, Dec. 10, 2021. Don’t put away the snow shovels yet and prepare for a potentially messy commute on Wednesday along the Wasatch Front because more storms will be impacting northern Utah into Thursday.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Don’t put away the snow shovels yet and prepare for a potentially messy commute on Wednesday along the Wasatch Front because more storms will be impacting northern Utah into Thursday.

Light snow is already falling in parts of northern Utah and is slated to steadily increase in intensity through Thursday morning.

While there might be a slight lull in storm activity Tuesday night, the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City said rain and snow will pick up just in time for motorists who are out and about Wednesday morning.

The storms are expected to impact northern and central Utah mountains, southwest Wyoming and valleys near the southern border of Idaho.

In a TravelWise weather alert, the Utah Department of Transportation warned that periods of mountain snow will impact travel in mountainous areas from 3 p.m. Tuesday until noon Thursday.

The agency warned that with cold road temperatures in place, the snow will stick at all elevations and be particularly troublesome for Logan and Sardine summits.

The snow won’t be the only headache, weather officials say.

Earlier Tuesday morning, the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City was warning of observed wind gusts of 60 mph in northern Utah mountains and southwest Wyoming. The wind gusts are producing whiteout conditions, making travel especially treacherous. It warns motorists to avoid these areas if at all possible.

The storms could add up to 2 feet of new snow in certain mountainous areas and are already producing milder temperatures, providing some relief from what has been bone-chilling cold that blanketed the state over the New Year’s weekend.

The Salt Lake City is anticipated to reach a balmy high of 47 degrees on Friday, with lows only reaching 32 degrees.

There remains a slight chance of snow on Saturday, but by Sunday and Monday it will dry out and below freezing temperatures will return for nighttime lows, forecasters say.

According to a basin-wide map on snowpack put out by the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Utah Snow Survey, the recent storms have lifted all basins to above average snowpack, which is good news for a state that suffered under the weight of a historic drought — like 16 other states in the West and the Great Plains.

The basin map shows some basins sitting at incredibly high numbers, like southwest Utah logging 205% of normal and southeast Utah at 158% of normal.

But the caveat is we’re barely just over two weeks into winter, and there is a lot of snow that is still needed to help Utah and other parts of the West emerge in OK shape after a year that saw water managers dipping into emergency water supplies at reservoirs, instituting drastic cutbacks in water deliveries and the first declared shortage on the Colorado River.

Water managers have said it will take a couple of banner years with snowpack well above average to counter the effects of what happened in 2021 and the years of preceding drought.

So while Wednesday’s commute may be nasty, buckle up, tap into that winter driving wisdom and continue to hope for more storms.