Utah digs out after storm

Accidents abound but no fatalities; some areas buried in 2 feet of snow

Published: Monday, Dec. 18 2006 5:09 p.m. MST

Much of Utah was smacked with a one-two punch from a winter storm that lumbered in from the Pacific Coast over the weekend — and the storm now threatens to become a one-two-three punch for parts of the state.

"It was a complicated storm because it affected the whole state," said Alex Tardy, meteorologist with the National Weather Service forecast office in Salt Lake City.

Its first segment hit Utah on Friday night but did not drop much snow. Utah County had the most precipitation with 6 to 12 inches.

Then Saturday night and Sunday morning, "We had some really heavy snow," Tardy said, as the second part of the system stretched from Cedar City to Salt Lake City.

Residents of the southern end of the Salt Lake Valley awoke Sunday to find 6-8 inches of snow. Mountains and mountain valleys recorded 7-14 inches Friday through Saturday night.

Some areas, such as Big and Little Cottonwood canyons near Salt Lake City, were smothered in 2 feet of snow. The central Utah mountains and the Uintas received 12-15 inches.

The storm dropped about 2 feet of snow in the upper parts of the Deer Valley and Solitude ski resorts.

"It was fluffy, too, quite dry," Tardy said. "It makes for very good skiing."

Snow was tapering off, and the storm was drifting out of the Salt Lake City area by about 8 p.m. Sunday. However, the Weather Service predicted it would stall in the state's desert southwest, then come back to hit southern Utah on Tuesday. Some of that precipitation may stretch as far north as Salt Lake City, Tardy said.

Traffic accidents were numerous in Utah and Salt Lake counties on Sunday with the crashes coming in waves — Sunday morning from about 6 a.m. to 11 a.m., and then again from about 4 p.m. through 9 p.m.

No fatalities or even serious injuries were reported, however.

Between 6 a.m. and 4 p.m. Sunday, the Utah Highway Patrol reported 25 crashes in Utah County and 100 wrecks in Salt Lake County. From 4-9 p.m., there were three more crashes in Utah County and a whopping 80 more wrecks in Salt Lake County.

"Luckily, every single one had just minor injuries or property damage to the vehicles or equipment," UHP Sgt. Ted Tingey said. "Most of these have been single-car slide-offs or they have gotten into the median ... and ended up in traffic" in the oncoming lanes.

"We've been very, very lucky with no fatalities."

There were several rollovers, he said, but the passengers were not seriously hurt.

One trooper did sustain minor injuries when someone crashed into his cruiser while he was helping another accident victim, Tingey said. That wreck happened about 10:30 a.m. on I-15 at 5600 South. The trooper suffered cuts and scrapes on his face and later experienced neck pain but was treated and released from the hospital, Tingey said.

Another trooper was arriving at an accident scene about 7:45 p.m. when a car slid out of control and struck his cruiser, Tingey said. That happened on northbound I-15 at 11400 South, but neither party was hurt.

Tingey said most of the wrecks were due to motorists driving too fast for the conditions or having bald tires or "just stupidity." Utahns need to remember how to drive in winter conditions, he said, and he encouraged everyone to slow down and be extremely cautious in bad weather.

The Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office reported more than 30 accidents during the day Sunday, but none resulted in serious injury.

The Valley Emergency Communications Center, which serves much of Salt Lake County, reported only about 30 crashes on Sunday, not too many more than normal.

Tooele County dispatchers reported only a couple of minor accidents. In Davis County, there were a half-dozen minor accidents after 4 p.m., dispatchers said.

Crashes continued to be reported throughout Salt Lake County on Sunday night. At 8 p.m., dispatchers reported that UHP troopers were "overloaded" in trying to respond to the various accidents, slide-offs and fender-benders on area freeways.


E-mail: bau@desnews.com; zman@desnews.com

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