Propelled by an arctic storm dubbed the "Alaskan Clipper," high winds, icy rain and snow barreled into northern Utah Wednesday night, snarling traffic, knock ing out power and closing Salt Lake International air traffic for about 11/2 hours.
Heavy snowfall, ranging from 25 inches at Beaver Mountain in Logan Canyon and 18 inches in Magna to 9 inches in Cache Valley and 1 to 2 inches in the Provo-Orem area, forced schools to close in Davis and Morgan counties Thursday.Salt Lake District schools started an hour late. Classes were held as usual in Jordan and Tooele districts. Granite schools were open, with the exception of some elementary schools, which were closed because of parent-teacher conferences.
The storm, which was accompanied by 46- to 84-mph winds, caused havoc on the freeway system and other roads and hundreds of power outages in northern Utah.
A Wednesday evening game between the Utah Jazz and Atlanta Hawks, scheduled to start at 7:30, was delayed until 8:10. A few fans were in the arena when the power went off about 6:30, and security officials kept others from entering the arena until power was restored.
The storm is expected to continue through the weekend, with temperatures expected to drop to about zero Saturday and Sunday.
Snowfall was heaviest in Weber, Davis and Salt Lake counties, said William J. Alder, meteorologist in charge of the Salt Lake office of the National Weather Service. "It was a sweetheart (in terms of amounts) of a storm and the snowiest Feb. 1 on record at the airport," Alder said.
The 11.9 inches (in an 11-hour period ending at 2:21 a.m. Thursday) was a record snowfall for any 24-hour period for the month of February. The previous record was 8.8 inches on Feb. 10 and 11 in 1984, Alder said.
He said the 11.9 inches also tops the 9.4 inches that fell during all of January at the airport.
While Salt Lake, Davis and Weber counties were hit hard, the Weather Service said the storm front stalled at the Point of the Mountain Wednesday evening. It didn't begin snowing in the Provo area until about 1:30 a.m. Thursday.
Wednesday evening, air traffic at the Salt Lake airport was shut down from 7:58 to 9:35 p.m. while crews worked to remove an inbound Cessna 208 Federal Express commuter cargo plane, stuck in snow off a taxiway, and to clear runways and other areas. At one point snow was falling at the rate of about 3 or 4 inches an hour.
Airport operations manager Ron Malin said Thursday that 22 inbound flights were diverted to other airports and 34 other flights were canceled Wednesday evening.
Operations director Tim Phillips said it was probably the first time in 25 years that air traffic had to be canceled because of a snowstorm.
Tom Troske, airport operations manager, said the airport had additional difficulties with aircraft on taxiways between 10 p.m. and midnight Wednesday. By 7:40 a.m. Thursday, all runways had been opened, Malin said.
David Eskelsen, a Utah Power & Light Co. spokesman, said electrical power was largely restored in the Salt Lake area by 7:30 a.m. Thursday. While the Ogden area had major power outages Wednesday night, most problems had been resolved by 11 p.m.
Firefighters and UP&L crews were kept busy sprinting to several burning power poles throughout the valley as sporadic power outages were reported from Ogden to Salt Lake City.
"It's a freaky, weather-related kind of thing," Eskelsen said.
A "greenish, milky residue" of dust and pollution accompanied early rainfall from Wednesday's storm and coated power insulators on power poles throughout the valley, making them electrically conductive, he said.
"It grounds out on the poles, and the poles start to burn," Eskelsen said.
Junction fuses were also blown during an incident that knocked out power to about 4,000 homes and businesses in Salt Lake City for about an hour. Many UP&L crews spent much of the evening clearing and replacing damaged lines while power was routed from other substations, he said.
That same problem caused many Farmington residents to go without power for more than five hours Wednesday while crews worked to replace a burned power pole near the county courthouse.
"We don't have a good way to reroute power in that area," Eskelsen said, but added that UP&L has been replacing poles in the area to correct the problem.
By midnight Wednesday, Utah Highway Patrol dispatchers had responded to about 130 separate accidents in Salt Lake, Davis and Weber counties. A number of additional accidents were reported within city limits of nearly every city in those counties, as well. No serious injuries were reported, however.
"The bite part of the clipper will be during the weekend when the temperature drops to about zero and when high temperatures will rise to only about 20," Alder said.
EAVER MOUNTAIN 25
UNIVERSITY OF UTAH 14
WEST VALLEY CITY 14
SALT LAKE AIRPORT 11.9
CACHE VALLEY 7-14