Snowstorm makes travel tricky along Wasatch Front

Published: Thursday, Dec. 19 2013 5:21 p.m. MST

A jet is de-iced at Salt Lake City International Airport, Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Power lines, power poles and flights in and out of Salt Lake City International Airport were among the casualties of Thursday morning's snowstorm.

The airport closed operations for about two hours Thursday morning.

One runway reopened just before noon, with a second opening at some point Thursday afternoon, though airport spokeswoman Barbara Gann could not confirm when.

Gann said she was not sure when the third runway would reopen. She was also unable to provide information on the number of flights that were delayed or canceled.

According to the airport's website, 123 flights out of Salt Lake City International Airport and 111 incoming flights were listed as canceled between 2 a.m. and 10 p.m. Thursday.

The closure happened after a Capital Cargo Inc. plane skidded while taxiing after exiting the runway, Gann said.

The lack of friction on the runways had reached a point where crews needed to shut down the airport to stay in compliance with Federal Aviation Administration guidelines, she said.

Individual airlines will determine "flight by flight" how to reschedule outgoing flights, Gann said.

Also, as of 4:30 p.m., roughly 5,300 customers were without power along the Wasatch Front and in northern Utah because of the winter storm.

"The weather conditions have caused a number of problems and power outages this morning," Rocky Mountain Power's Jeff Hymas said.

All available crews in the Salt Lake Valley were working to fix the problems causing the outages, and Dave Eskelsen, spokesman for Rocky Mountain Power, who estimated that crews would be working into the evening and overnight.

"We've made quite a bit of progress," he said.

Crews target higher-volume outages first, meaning customers with outages in less-populated areas "could be without power into the night," Eskelsen said.

Among those affected by the outage were Robert Frost and Franklin elementary schools, Bryant Middle School and Everest College.

Robert Frost Elementary in West Valley City did not open at all Thursday because the building lacks natural light, according to Granite School District spokesman Ben Horsley.

Students at Franklin Elementary in Salt Lake City were fed lunch and bused home at 12:30 p.m. The school asked parents of students who do not take the bus to pick up their children.

Bryant Middle School in Salt Lake City will not open Friday because of a water line that is leaking, school officials said. It will remained closed until after winter recess, reopening Jan. 6.

Everest College in West Valley City canceled its Thursday evening classes because of the weather. Classes were expected to resume Friday morning. Students with questions can call 801-840-4800, ext. 300.

Rocky Mountain Power officials say the dirty rain, combined with earlier dry weather, caused pole fires in "numerous locations" in Utah.

"The rain last night when it started was very dirty," Eskelsen said, "and so that dust and wet rain has enough minerals in it that can actually conduct electricity over the insulators. You get some sparking, and wooden poles and cross arms can actually catch fire in this weather."

On state Route 201 and 2700 West, a power pole had broken, leaving power lines across the highway.

Both transmission and distribution lines run across the highway at 2700 West. The upper transmission lines stayed in place, but the lower-voltage distribution lines came down.

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