A blinding snowstorm contributed to a car-train fatal collision in Kearns, and light snow and freezing temperatures turned parts of I-15 into a commuter's nightmare Monday morning.
Viliami S. Pauni, 39, 6717 S. Dixie Drive, who was traveling west on 62nd South, died when his car collided with a northbound Denver & Rio Grande train near 48th West at 6:46 a.m.Larry Gallegos, a Salt Lake County resident, was engineer on the train, which was traveling about 15 mph, according to Cpl. Ron Lillie, Salt Lake County sheriff's office.
Robert D. Labrum, a Salt Lake County
resident who witnessed the accident, tried to revive the man before ambulances arrived.
The train was sounding its horn and the crossing signal was working, witnesses told Lillie. The train engineer saw the car crossing the tracks and tried unsuccessfully to stop, Lillie said.
Pauni was dead on arrival at Pioneer Valley Hospital.
Meanwhile, Utah Highway Patrol troopers were dispatched to dozens of accidents along northbound and southbound lanes of the interstate from about Sixth South to south of the Point of the Mountain.
Light snow that fell during the early morning and temperatures that dipped down into the 20s caused freeway overpasses and other areas to ice up, with cars, trucks and other vehicles turning into a tailspin as motorists applied their brakes.
A dispatcher at the patrol's Salt Lake office said 49 mishaps were handled within an hour and a half Monday morning by Salt Lake area troopers. Officers were so swamped with calls that many people were sent to the patrol's Murray office, and Salt Lake County deputies and Draper City police were among those called to assist.
The Orem office of the Highway Patrol reported extremely slick conditions at the Point of the Mountain, where numerous vehicles slid off the freeway.
"The roads are very slick, from Lehi north to the point. People like to blame the weather for accidents, but they travel way too fast for existing conditions," a dispatcher said.
A number of injury accidents occurred in that area and along I-15 in Salt Lake County. Salt Lake area hospitals were busy treating the injured.
Traffic pileups, to which several Salt Lake fire trucks and emergency medical technicians were dispatched, caused northbound traffic to back up to about 70th South early Monday.
In the early hours, traffic problems were especially serious on the I-15 collector system in the central part of the Salt Lake Valley.
One of several vehicle rollovers on the freeway system involved a semitrailer truck, which overturned on the 21st South eastbound exit from I-15. A driver was injured, but she was able to walk from the heavily damaged vehicle, a patrol dispatcher said.
Lt. Gene Rosendahl of the Salt Lake County sheriff's office traffic division said many accidents occurred in the higher bench areas of the county.
"We had just about everyone available out on accidents, which slacked up a bit after rush-hour traffic," Rosendahl said.
William J. Alder, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service, Salt Lake International Airport, said the storm front, which moved into the Wasatch Front from northeastern Nevada, left a skiff to a half inch of snow in most areas of the Salt Lake Valley. But Kearns, West Valley City and Alta all had 2 inches of new snow, Alder said.
Alder said the air mass has been very cold for this time of the year. "It is some of the coldest air we have seen this spring."
Some of the weather problems can be attributed to what is called the "lake (Great Salt Lake) effect," cold air over warm water, Alder said.
The meteorologist said high wind gusts were reported in many areas on Sunday. A 58 mph gust was recorded at Wendover at 10 a.m., with the Salt Lake International Airport recording 41 and Milford 49.
Uintah County Sheriff Drew Christiansen said a wooden roof blew off a porch addition to the rear of a home in Jensen Monday afternoon.
"It blew up over the top of the house and landed on the county road in front of the house," Christiansen said, adding that it was a rural road and the incident caused no traffic problems before debris was cleaned up.
Debris from the roof was thrown over a fence into a neighbor's yard, but no one at either residence was hurt. The owners of the home were not home at the time of the incident.
Alder said the weather picture looks a little improved for Tuesday, but temperatures are expected to remain cold. The weather is expected to improve as the week progresses. And the forecast for the Easter weekend appears be a little warmer and mostly dry, he said.