Pat Cochrane left a soccer game at the Cottonwood Recreation Center Thursday night in the middle of a big snowstorm. She says she spent hours stranded on I-215 until a stranger came to her aid.
The stranger, Robert Coult, 27, of the Holladay area, was the "unsung hero of the storm," she said.Cochrane said Coult and his wife, Jackie, and daughter, Krystal, 3, spent until midnight or 1 a.m. pulling people and their stranded vehicles out of snowbanks.
"If it hadn't been for him, we'd probably still be there," she said. "He was pulling people out of snowbanks and to safer areas with his four-wheel drive vehicle. He was just a hero. He was so kind. We were sopping wet, cold. It was a nightmare," Cochrane said.
Much of Utah was hit with a heavy winter storm Thursday night and early Friday, turning freeways into parking lots and leaving dozens of motorist like Cochrane stranded.
The storm moved into the area about sunset Thursday, bringing gusty winds and occasionally heavy snow that severely limited visibility. A winter storm warning was issued for all Thursday night.
Snowfall amounts ranged from 23 inches at Brighton and 20 at Snowbird to 10 inches in the Cottonwood area and some sections of Holladay in Salt Lake County. But Mother Nature only dusted northern Utah County with snow. The snow depth in Provo and Pleasant Grove was reported at only 2 inches.
The storm turned sections of highways into virtual parking lots Thursday night as scores of motorists, unprepared for the heavy snowfall, got stuck, drove off roads or plowed into each other.
With reports of fender-benders, people spinning out, going off the road and generally driving badly, it was "typical winter driving," a Utah Highway Patrol dispatcher said.
People were driving too fast and had neither snow tires nor chains on their cars, she said. "Basically, it was just people not paying attention."
Generally, it was "a true white-out," said William J. Alder, meteorologist in charge of the Salt Lake office of the National Weather Service.
The front, accompanied by thunder and lighting, 30 to 40 mph wind gusts and zero visibility at times, passed the Salt Lake International Airport at 6:22 p.m., triggering heavy amounts of snowfall over about a three-hour period from the Cache Valley, along the Wasatch Front and into the Cedar City, Salina and Sevier Valley areas, Alder said.
In the Salt Lake Valley, major traffic snarls were reported at 2100 South and 4000 West, I-80 to the Salt Lake airport, Parleys Canyon and Parleys Dip, the area of eastbound I-80 that meets I-215.
Law enforcement officers struggled to get the traffic under control by closing off sections of the highway and surface feeder streets for hours at a time.
A Utah Highway Patrol dispatcher said at 5:30 a.m. Friday that troopers handled several accidents during the night in Salt Lake, Utah and Juab counties, but "none were very serious. Roads are plowed and sanded but are extremely icy and slick," she said.
More snow may fall in some areas of Utah Friday. And a Saturday evening and Sunday storm, which was expected to dump substantial amounts of snow over much of the state, may be heavier in southwestern Utah than in the northern part of the state.
Many mountain areas throughout the state may get 12 to 18 inches of snow Saturday and Sunday. That should elate those concerned about water supplies - if the snow contains large amounts of water.
Snow will probably continue through Sunday, although the brunt of the storm will be Saturday night and Sunday, Alder said.
Let it snow!
Powder Mountain 18
Mill Creek Canyon 12
Olympus Cove 10
Deer Valley 10
Park City 4
West Valley City 3