Storm pumping up Utah's snowpack; January coldest month since 1949

Published: Sunday, Feb. 10 2013 7:36 p.m. MST

Cross-country skiing, with a much smaller than average snowpack, along the Beaver Creek trail near the Mirror Lake Highway Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013, above Kamas.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY  — Utah's mountains picked up some much needed snow from a slow-moving storm that lingered through the weekend into Sunday.

The storm chased away an inversion that had been hanging over the Wasatch Front and covered up mounds of snow that had turned gray and dirty from roadway traffic.

Valley accumulations along the Wasatch Front reached seven inches in some locations, according to the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City.

The on-again off-again snow storm began sticking in the valley by late Saturday, contributing to poor driving conditions and a number of traffic accidents. The Utah Highway Patrol reported that the vehicles of four troopers were struck between Friday and Sunday as troopers attempted to assist with crashes.

So far this year, 13 troopers have been hit while working crash sites, UHP Lt. Steven Windward said, compared to 12 in all of 2012.

"We ask drivers to slow down, especially when they see emergency vehicles with their emergency equipment on," Winward said. "Please slow down, give them a lane and move over so we can investigate what we need to."

Roy in Weber County picked up 2 inches of new snow, Brigham City received 3 inches  and Alpine in Utah County saw 6.5 inches. The Utah Test and Training Range was hit with 11 inches of snow by Sunday, as was the Powder Mountain ski area.

In the Salt Lake City area, the storm's performance peaked Saturday night. Sandy initially had just a skiff over an inch of snow but eventually totaled more than 6 inches by Sunday evening.

Salt Lake International Airport saw more than 5 inches of snow. In January, the airport had a staggering 190 percent of average snow accumulation, according to Brian McInerney, hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City.

City Creek Canyon had 117 percent of average, while Brighton was only at 72 percent of average.

At Lakefork in the Uinta Mountains at an elevation of 10,966 feet, the snowpack was just 84 percent of average.

McInerney, in his February briefing on water supply, reservoir storage and snowpack said January — despite all its snowiness — didn't deliver when it came to the mountains.

This past January will go down as the coldest on record at the Salt Lake International Airport since 1949 and the first time temperatures have dipped below zero there since 2008.

Some other facts to consider: it was the sixth coldest January since 1874, as well as the 13th snowiest January since that time.

Reservoir storage, however, is not faring that well.

From February of 2012 to February of 2013, McInerney said Pineview in Weber County is down 36 percent, Deer Creek is down 15 percent and East Canyon is down 34 percent.

Based on the snow stored up in the mountains so far, McInerney is forecasting a runoff that is only 70 percent of average for most of the basin drainages in the state. The others, like the Weber-Ogden River drainage, is less than that at 65 percent of average.

Contributing: Benjamin Wood

E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com, Twitter: amyjoi16

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