It's going to get cold. We're going to bottom out with single-digit temperatures (Friday) night. —KSL meteorologist Kevin Eubank
SALT LAKE CITY — Thirty-six hours before the winter storm warning was to expire, the snow had already done enough in Davis County to prompt a snow day.
"I was just so surprised that school was out," Rachel Anderson, of Bountiful, said. "I couldn't believe it, but I'm very happy. It's going to be fun today."
The National Weather Service's winter storm warning will remain in effect until noon Saturday, but the storm that rolled in Thursday afternoon had already coated a good portion of the state in inches and inches of snow. Davis County was among the hardest hit, with 18 inches of snow measured Friday morning in North Salt Lake, Layton and Centerville.
Around 6 a.m. Friday, parents of students in the Davis School District's 86 schools received phone calls and email messages to alert them that schools had been closed for the day. District spokesman Chris Williams said messages were posted on the district's website, Twitter feed and Facebook page. School employees are also notified via the emergency call system.
"The one thing we don't want to do is not get the word out there so some student goes to school and doesn't know schools are closed," Williams said. "We do know that can happen, so our principals and head custodians are asked to report to their schools in case there is a situation where a student doesn't get the word and comes to school."
Williams said this is only the second snow day in his 13 years with the district and officials cancel school when they feel it's necessary.
"There's no benchmark that says zero degrees outside we shut it down, or 12 inches we shut it down. There's not a standard," Williams said.
He said snowplows were out at 1 a.m. Friday and drivers reported that they had returned to areas they had already plowed only to find more snow.
"The big challenge was accessibility," Williams said. "We have to make sure that our schools are accessible, and if we can't stay ahead of the snow and keep lots plowed so our buses can get in, so our parents can drop off students, so our faculty can get in, then we call it."
City government offices in Davis County were also closed due to the snow.
Williams said the district will need to make up the day at some point, as they are required to hold classes for 180 days each year. The makeup day has not yet been scheduled.
The National Weather Service reported most areas in northern Utah had received an average of 6 to 8 inches of snow, with East Millcreek, Salt Lake City and Cottonwood Heights each receiving a foot or more. Upper Millcreek netted nearly 26 inches of snow by Friday night.
The Utah Highway Patrol reported 404 accidents across the Wasatch Front Friday, including 108 accidents in Salt Lake County and 80 in Davis County from midnight through 9 p.m. Seven of those reported in Salt Lake County involved injuries. The UHP also reported 128 slide-off incidents in Salt Lake County.
In Utah County, the UHP reported 18 accidents during that same time period, six of which led to injuries, as well as 13 incidents involving sliding vehicles. An additional 42 accidents were reported in Weber County.
Troopers encouraged anyone who got into an accident on the freeway to drive to the nearest off-ramp, if possible, and then call police. The Utah Department of Transportation updated its Twitter feed and website with road conditions and closures, including the closure of U.S. 191 near the Utah-Wyoming border due to "severe weather conditions."
The snow Thursday and Friday in Salt Lake County prompted some school closures, including Westminster College, Salt Lake Community College, University of Utah and some charter schools, but none of the school districts in the county took a snow day.
Granite School District spokesman Ben Horsley said it was a tough decision to make, but the district opted to keep its schools in-session. He said district officials started looking at snowfall from 11 p.m. Thursday through Friday morning at 4 a.m. The district had principals and custodians report what they were seeing at their schools and worked with law enforcement and local municipalities to make the call.
"Weather is an unpredictable thing, and the situation here is so fluid that it's hard to pin it down and say, 'This will work districtwide,'" Horsley said, noting that the Granite schools on the east bench were hit much harder by the snow than the schools in Magna, which only reported 4 or 5 inches. "We do the best we can and try to err on the side of safety."
Like Davis School District, Granite School District doesn't have a set standard to determine a snow day. Because the district covers such a large area, Horsley said it leaves some discretion to principals, who can utilize a late-start option if needed.
"They get that information to us so we can communicate with parents," Horsley said. "We have phones, email, Facebook and Twitter when there's a late start."
He said there were no real issues or concerns getting students to school Friday, though some schools did start later and principals and staff worked to ensure that students got there safely.
"We just appreciate everyone's patience as we worked to get things going," Horsley said.
The snow impacted not only those on the roads, but also residents who had to dig out from their homes and driveways. Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker and the City Department of Public Services issued a statement Friday asking residents to try and keep sidewalks clear and help neighbors who may need help shoveling.
They said snow removal crews had been working "continuously" since 3 p.m. Thursday to plow and salt the city's streets. Those efforts first targeted main roads and high-traffic routes but would continue for 24-hour cycles until all city roads are clear.
All Salt Lake City Library locations closed at 4 p.m. Friday "out of concern for the safety of our staff and our patrons," spokeswoman Julianne Hancock said. "As the snowy conditions persist and temperatures begin to drop, we want to mitigate hazard as much as we can in what will likely be treacherous road conditions during the rush hour."
Travel in Big and Little Cottonwood canyons was limited to vehicles with chains or four-wheel drive capabilities Friday while all semitrailers traveling east through Parleys Canyon were also required to use chains.
In Iron County, state Route 143 was closed above Brian Head to Mammoth Creek "due to hazardous road conditions."
The Utah Transit Authority reported that snow slowed both buses and FrontRunner service in Davis and Weber counties through the early part of the Friday morning's commute, but most buses were quickly back on schedule. They also reported more riders than normal taking advantage of TRAX and FrontRunner Friday.
KSL meteorologist Kevin Eubank said the cold front was over by Friday, but the snow continued due to the "lake effect" and will most likely continue in areas south and east of the Great Salt Lake.
"Not the crazy stuff, nonstop, like we saw before, just light, consistent snow," Eubank said. "And it's going to get cold. We're going to bottom out with single-digit temperatures (Friday) night."
Those cold weekend temperatures are expected throughout the state. Highs of 17 and 20 degrees were forecasted for the Wasatch Front Saturday and Sunday, while St. George should expect highs of 38 and 40 degrees for the same days.
Temperatures of 12 and 13 degrees were predicted in Park City, while the Uinta Basin was facing the coldest weekend with expected highs of just 4 degrees Saturday and 2 degrees on Sunday.
Despite the large amount of snowfall in Salt Lake and Davis counties, the state's ski resorts received from as little as 1 inch of snow at Beaver Mountain in Logan to 13 inches at Eagle Point in Beaver, according to Ski Utah's snow report. Park City, Canyons and Deer Valley all received 9 inches, while Brighton netted 11 inches.
Eubank said the difference in snowfall between Salt Lake and Davis counties and the state's ski resorts can be explained by the mountains and the shallow nature of the lake effect, which kept the bulk of the snow in the valleys.
Contributing: Pat Reavy