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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News
An accident victim is transported to the hospital Tuesday after several cars and a semi collided on I-80 near 300 East in Salt Lake.

A fast-moving snowstorm made a mess of Utah's roadways Tuesday morning, but experts say most commuters can expect a smoother ride today.

Despite highs in the mid-20s for most of the week, the next chance of precipitation for most of the state is Sunday, said Christine Smith, a forecaster with the National Weather Service.

The NWS, however, did forecast as many as 3 new inches from a band of snow that was moving into Tooele County early Tuesday night, which might cause problems on parts of I-80, Smith said.

Even without much new snow, weather was a factor in nearly 200 accidents in Salt Lake and Utah counties Tuesday, said Trooper Cameron Roden of the Utah Highway Patrol.

"When it snows like that, people get going too fast and follow to close," he said. "They start sliding into each other and off the roads — all over."

Tuesday's storm left less than half an inch of new snow around most of the state, but the Utah Highway Patrol still reported 156 crashes — 22 with minor injuries — and five slide-offs in Salt Lake County by 3 p.m. In Utah County, there were 30 crashes and one slide-off, Roden said. Injuries were reported in four of those crashes, he said.

The driver of a pickup truck was cited after a two-car accident on I-80 eastbound near 2300 East around 11:30 a.m.

"He was trying to pass a car and the road was slick with the snow on it," Roden said. "He was going faster than he should."

The driver lost control of his vehicle, causing the truck to roll and another car to slide off the road. No one was injured, Roden said.

Weather, however, did not appear to be a factor in one of the worst wrecks on the state's highways Tuesday.

Four children suffered minor injuries in a crash on I-80, but troopers said things could have been much worse.

"This could have just been a nightmare," said Trooper T.J. DeCarlo of the Utah Highway Patrol. "We were fortunate."

The crash happened just before 2 p.m. as cars stopped abruptly to avoid a fuel cannister that had fallen in a westbound lane near 300 East, DeCarlo said.

A truck pulling a trailer was following too close to a semitrailer truck. The driver attempted to change lanes suddenly but collided with the semi, setting off a chain-reaction crash involving five vehicles, he said.

The semi was pushed into the back of an SUV, which rear-ended another vehicle. The truck's trailer also jackknifed, hitting a fifth car and pushing a concrete barrier into one of the eastbound lanes, DeCarlo said.

Initially a helicopter was called out to the scene because emergency responders had a difficult time getting to the crash, he said. Cars blocked off both lanes of traffic, forcing ambulances to drive up the State Street offramp to get to the crash.

Four children, ranging in age from 2 to 8, were in the SUV and were taken to Primary Children's Medical Center to be treated for cuts and bruises, DeCarlo said. Their mother was taken to University Hospital with a forehead injury caused by the steering wheel, he said.

Other minor injuries were reported, but no one else was transported to hospitals, DeCarlo said.

The crash backed up traffic in both direction for more than two hours, DeCarlo said.

E-mail: afalk@desnews.com