August Miller, Deseret News
Heavy snow that fell over Christmas gave way to chilly temperatures and clearing skies Friday evening.
The cold and ice are expected to remain through the weekend, but the worst of the heavy snow has moved on, according to the National Weather Service offices in Salt Lake City.
The Christmas blizzard caused snowpacked roads and problems all along the Wasatch Front. Fortunately, the Friday morning commute was lighter than normal thanks to the holiday weekend.
Still, Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Jeff Nigbur said there were numerous accidents. From 7 p.m. Thursday to 9:45 a.m. Friday, there were 66 crashes involving damage on Salt Lake County's freeways, five accidents involving injuries and multiple slide-offs. Fender benders and slide-offs continued to occur throughout the evening Friday when the departing front caused plummeting temperatures, which froze the remaining slush, highway dispatchers said.
The most serious accident Friday was a semitrailer truck that was blown over by strong winds on I-80 near Saltair about 5:30 p.m. Thursday. The driver was transported to a hospital in critical condition. A portion of I-80 was closed Thursday night to high-profile vehicles due to the wind.
In Utah County, there were 22 crashes involving damage on the freeway from Thursday night through Friday morning, no injury accidents, and "multiple, multiple slide-offs," Nigbur said.
Because Friday was not a big travel day and many residents didn't have to work, Nigbur said the number of crashes Friday morning was "really low compared to other storms."
The storm forced several road closures Friday along the Wasatch Front.
Little Cottonwood Canyon was closed Friday morning but had reopened by Friday night. Restrictions allowing only vehicles with chains or four-wheel drive remained in effect for Sardine Canyon, and I-84 near the Utah/Idaho border was also closed.
At the Salt Lake City International Airport, spokeswoman Barbara Gann said the airport Friday was "unraveling from last night."
Weather temporarily closed all but one runway Thursday and forced 17 flight diversions in addition to some delays and cancellations.
By Friday morning, Gann said all the runways were open, the airport was just "slow from recovering from last night."
About 200 people slept in the airport terminal Thursday night, Gann said.
For skiers, snowboarders and outdoor recreationists, Salt Lake County sheriff's deputy Shane Manwaring said there was an "extreme avalanche danger" Friday. The National Weather Service Friday morning also issued a backcountry avalanche warning in conjunction with the Forest Service. The Weather Service said there were "overloaded layers of very weak snow" and that "large and very dangerous slab avalanches can easily be triggered by people and can occur naturally. A high avalanche danger exists above most slopes above 7,000 feet."
The snow totals from the Christmas Day storm were impressive in many areas across Utah, especially the northern portion of the state.
As of 7 p.m. Friday, West Jordan had received 15 to 21 new inches of snow while 20 dropped in Portage and 13 fell in Tremonton. Other totals included 10 inches in Herriman and American Fork, and 8 inches of snow in Bountiful, the North Salt Lake Bench, South Salt Lake, Cottonwood Heights and the Salt Lake City International Airport.
Alta Ski Resort received 34 inches of new snow, Brighton got 30 inches, Snowbird received 31, Deer Valley had 25 new inches and Snowbasin received 17 new inches, according to the weather service.For more information about the storm, visit www.wrh.noaa.gov/slc.
Contributing: Rebecca Palmer E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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