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Utah wintry weather blamed for power outages, accidents

Published: Sunday, Nov. 21 2010 11:03 p.m. MST

Rob Murphy has a chilly run in Sugarhouse Park Sunday as a snow squall moves in.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The snow, rain and freezing temperatures that caused slick roads and multiple accidents over the weekend will likely lead to a slow and snarled drive for commuters today.

"The Monday morning commute could be problematic," said Brian McInerney, hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City.

The first leg of a snowstorm expected to last through Tuesday caused road closures throughout the state, power outages in Salt Lake County and a warning by weather watchers about back-country avalanches.

The Utah Highway Patrol reported more than 150 weather-related calls in Salt Lake County on Saturday and Sunday, including 15 crashes that left motorists with injuries. In Utah County, there were 38 weather-related calls, while Davis County to the north experienced only 19 calls blamed on weather.

Before it heads out, the storm may dump as much as 4 feet of snow in the mountains and 6 inches of snow on the valley floors. In some areas such as Ogden, even more snow could fall, McInerney said.

Margaret Oler, spokeswoman for Rocky Mountain Power, said 3,500 customers in the Salt Lake Valley were without power Sunday night. That's down from as many as 13,000 households without power as of 11 a.m. due to lines damaged by snow or falling tree limbs.

"(The crews have) been working at it all day and will continue to work through the night," said Oler.

Oler said the outages were not caused by a single event, but rather the damage is spread throughout 600 locations in the county, with crews moving from one site to the next.

I-15 in both directions was closed near Beaver for a few hours Sunday evening. State Route 39 over the Monte Cristo Summit in Weber and Rich counties, a road that typically closes Nov. 30 because of the winter season, was also closed. The weekend storm led to the early closure and also had state Route 143 shut down between Brian Head and Mammoth Creek.

The Utah Avalanche Center issued avalanche warnings for the Wasatch, western Uintas and the Bear River Range advising outdoor recreationists to exercise extreme caution because of unstable conditions brought by snow and high winds.

Although the storm will lull motorists with periodic breaks, McInerney and transportation officials warn that the snowfall experienced so far is expected to be repeated over the next two days.

Contributing: Molly Farmer

e-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com

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