Squall brought more snow, high winds and traffic problems to Wasatch Front
A snow squall brought heavy, blinding snow and high winds to northern Utah on Monday, disrupting traffic along the Wasatch Front during the evening drive and leaving thousands without power as temperatures were falling.
The Utah Department of Transportation reported wrecks and delays throughout the evening, and authorities banned vehicles without four-wheel drive or tire chains from crossing Parleys and Sardine Canyons. Utah Transit Authority buses have altered their routes to avoid slippery roads.
At around 6 p.m., a car struck a utility pole in Salt Lake County, cutting power to more than 6,400 Rocky Mountain Power customers in West Valley City and Taylorsville.
The cause, according to the website of the electricity company: “snow”.
Rocky Mountain Power estimated crews could restore power by 9:30 p.m. The National Weather Service predicted the low in West Valley City Monday night to be 15 degrees.
Squalls are meteorological events characterized by a sudden increase in wind speed of at least 18 mph. But the forecaster predicted that this storm could produce wind gusts faster than 30 mph with snow – which means possible whiteout conditions and slippery roads, according to the weather service, the National Weather meteorologist said. Service, Mike Seaman.
Seaman said data showed the storm was “more intense” than expected, gusting 45 to 50 mph and reaching 68 mph at Tooele. He said the snow totals – preliminary reports of around 2 to 3 inches – along the Wasatch Front were what forecasters had predicted.
The squall warning covered parts of Wasatch, Salt Lake, Summit, Utah and Tooele counties and was in effect until 6:45 p.m. This included Interstate 15 and Interstate 215 near Layton and Ogden, as well as I-15, I-215, Interstate 80 and US Route 89 near Salt Lake City and West Valley City, according to the meteorological service.
An emergency alert issued to area residents also warned of heavy snowfall and “sudden fall” to near zero visibility on icy roads.
“Slow down or delay the trip! The alert read.
At around 5 p.m., authorities closed US 89 via Sardine Canyon to all vehicles without four-wheel drive and chains. All lanes of I-80 through Parleys Canyon followed with the same restrictions approximately one hour later.
Utah Highway Patrol responded to 40 accidents and stopped to help about 100 other people across the state between 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Monday, spokesman Sgt. Cameron Roden said. He said these were early numbers and expected “a lot more” of reports by morning.
The storm also shut down some coronavirus testing sites – which health officials expected to be busy after the holiday weekend – early, including the Old Workforce Services Building and Highland High in the Salt Lake County, Davis Technical College in Davis County, and the Saratoga Springs mobile site in Utah County.
“People in line can receive home test kits at sites that close early,” the the state tweeted.
The squall warning was issued during an ongoing winter weather advisory for the northern Wasatch front, which began mid-afternoon Monday and will continue through early Tuesday.
This was the first squall warning the National Weather Service has ever issued for the Wasatch front and it is only the second year that the service has issued these warnings, Seaman said.
Seaman said the National Weather Service would only issue warnings if a gust is forecast to hit certain thresholds: winds over 30 mph, snow that limits visibility to a quarter-mile, and low temperatures that could mean the roads are getting dangerously icy and slippery.
The storm will spread across southern Utah through Monday evening and continue through Tuesday before easing. The winter weather advisory comes into effect at 8 p.m. Monday and continues until 1 p.m. Tuesday. The weather service said up to an inch of snow (“mostly on grass”) is possible in St. George on Monday evening.
In Salt Lake City, there is a small chance of snow in the forecast for Tuesday, and it will be cold – a high of just 26 is expected. Snow is possible again on Wednesday, with more snow possible on Thursday and Friday.
After daytime highs in the 1930s to mid-1930s and nightly lows in the 1920s, it should be freezing on New Years Eve – Friday’s nighttime trough is predicted to be 13 degrees. On New Years Day, a high of only 25 is expected and a low of around 9 degrees is expected in the evening.
In southern Utah, this week’s forecast calls for temperatures in the upper 30 degrees and low 40 degrees Tuesday through Friday. There is a risk of snow from Tuesday to Friday, with the possibility of some accumulation, mainly Wednesday evening.
Residents of St. George can expect a mixture of rain and snow on New Years Eve, with temperatures dropping from 40 to 20 overnight. New Years Day will be sunny, with peaks in the mid-1930s. And it will be very cold Saturday night, with a low of around 16.