Utah's record snowpack is about to get another boost before the end of March, but a storm arriving in the state Wednesday is also prompting concerns because of the impact it may have on roads and power lines.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch for Utah's Wasatch, west Uinta and southern Utah mountains, where 8 to 24 inches of heavy snow is possible, along with strong wind gusts. The Grand Junction office issued a winter weather advisory for the east Uinta mountains, where slightly smaller snow totals are expected.

A mixture of rain, snow and wind is forecast in the valleys over the next few days.

Storm timing

Wednesday is the warm before the storm, as temperatures will reach close to the 60s before the next storm system arrives. It's also going to be windy ahead of the next cold front. A wind advisory will go into effect in most of western Utah this afternoon through the evening, ahead of the precipitation, bringing winds of 25 to 35 mph and gusts up to 55 mph from the southwest.

The weather service notes that travel may be difficult for semitrucks and other high-profile vehicles on east-west routes like Interstate 80, as a result. The windy conditions are ahead of a cold front arriving in Utah later in the day, says KSL meteorologist Matt Johnson.

He adds that some showers are possible in northern Utah late Wednesday afternoon, but most of the valley rain and mountain snow is expected to begin Wednesday night, impacting valleys and mountain ranges across the state. A few thunderstorms could be part of the mix, especially in northern and central Utah, according to the National Weather Service.

The precipitation will linger into Thursday, possibly disrupting the morning commute. There's a stronger probability of valley snow showers Thursday morning and afternoon, according to Johnson.

"Then, there's another round of snow, potentially, for northern Utah, as we move into Friday morning," he said. "So we have to watch Friday morning's commute, as well."

Projected precipitation totals

The National Weather Service alerts state the storm has the possibility of delivering:

  • 1 to 2 feet of snow in the Wasatch and west Uinta mountains by Friday evening. Wind gusts could also reach 70 mph at times.
  • 8 to 16 inches of snow in the southern Utah mountains by Thursday evening, especially near Brian Head and the Tushar range. Wind gusts may reach 50 mph.
  • 4 to 6 inches of snow in the east Uinta mountains by Thursday night. Wind gusts may reach 45 mph.

As for the valleys, Johnson said the storm system has the potential to deliver a quarter of an inch of rain along most of the Wasatch Front and parts of southwest Utah by early Thursday morning. The Ogden area could receive more than a ½-inch of precipitation by then.

The valleys may end up with 1 to 4 inches of snow if and when the rain transitions into snow Thursday. Most of the valley snow is expected in the northern Wasatch Front and Cache Valley. But Johnson cautions there could be more valley snow in those areas if the right conditions emerge, similar to what happened on Monday.

"It's not a huge snow maker but we've got to watch it because last time, the lake effect kicked in," he said. "That would push totals up a little bit more."

Storm impacts

The weather service warns that travel may be "very difficult" along mountain routes once the storm system arrives.

Meanwhile, Rocky Mountain Power officials said Tuesday they are monitoring the incoming storm system because heavy snowfall along the Wasatch Front could bring down trees and branches and cause weather-related outages. The company says crews are on standby in case that happens, so power can be restored as quickly as possible.

"As a reminder, treat all downed wires as live and dangerous. Customers should avoid both downed trees and power lines as well as keep pets far away from those areas," a Rocky Mountain Power statement says.

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The Utah Avalanche Center notes that "considerable" avalanche conditions remain in effect throughout the Wasatch ranges. It has received reports of over a dozen natural and human-caused avalanches this week, alone.

The storm figures will tack onto Utah's statewide snowpack, too. It reached 27 inches on Tuesday, a full inch above the previous record set in 1983, since records have been kept in snow seasons after 1980.

The snow isn't over quite yet, either. While a warm and mostly dry weekend is expected, Johnson said another storm system is expected to impact both northern and southern Utah early next week.

Full seven-day forecasts for areas across Utah can be found online, at the KSL Weather Center.

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