Motorists be mindful: Snow, slush and wind

Composite stock image, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – Weekend weather throughout most of Utah, with the express exception of Utah’s Dixie, the San Rafael Swell and Lake Powell areas, looks to be quite white and windy.

Utah Department of Transportation’s active road alerts show snow and slush roads in parts of central and southern Utah Thursday. The National Weather Service’s winter weather watch sees more winter weather incoming beginning Friday evening and continuing through Sunday night. Utah Avalanche Center anticipates moderate to considerable avalanche conditions in the Moab area mountains.

Utah Department of Transportation travel highlights show road snow and slush from 3 a.m. Thursday through 2 a.m. Friday | Image courtesy of UDOT, see webpage for updates, St. George News
Utah Department of Transportation travel highlights show road snow and slush from 3 a.m. Thursday through 2 a.m. Friday | Image courtesy of UDOT, see webpage for updates, St. George News | Click on image to enlarge

Those traveling are urged to plan ahead and take precautions as blowing snow and wind can increase risks for motorists, making travel potentially precarious.

Snow accumulations, road impacts

Through the weekend, valleys in Utah will likely see 6-12 inches of snowfall locally higher north of Salt Lake City, according to the Weather Service. Mountains will likely see 1-3 feet of snow.

UDOT’s road alerts in effect Thursday morning through Friday at 1:30 a.m. indicate various levels of road snow and slush on a number of routes in central and southern Utah. See particulars and updates on its emergency alerts webpage here.

At 7 a.m. Thursday in Southern Utah, UDOT has snow plows operating between Enterprise and Beryl Junction, in and around Brian Head, from the Alton area west towards Duck Creek Village and south of Mt. Carmel Junction to Kanab. UDOT tracks snowplows on its road conditions webpage here.

Thursday road snow and slush levels are expected by UDOT to occur as low as 6,000 feet by 11 a.m., rising to near 7,500 feet Thursday afternoon then lowering again to near 6,000 feet after 6 p.m.

UDOT foresees the heaviest road snow Thursday over state Route 12 at Boulder Summit and state Route 46 at La Sal Summit. UDOT also expects road snow Thursday along U.S. Highway 191 and U.S. Highway 491 near Monticello, and along U.S. Highway 89 near and south of Panguitch. Pockets of road snow and brief slush may occur along summit routes of Interstate 15, near and south of Cove Fort through Cedar City, and Interstate 70 from Cove Fort to Sevier, as well as through the upper Salina Canyon and San Rafael Swell.

Shaded area denotes area subject to the winter weather watch issued by the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City, Utah, Dec. 22, 2016 | Image courtesy of NWS, St. George News | Click on image to enlarge
Shaded area denotes area subject to the winter weather watch issued by the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City, Utah, Dec. 22, 2016 | Image courtesy of NWS, St. George News | Click on image to enlarge

As well, the Weather Service expects valley rain and snow with mountain snow Friday night through most of Utah with the stated exception of Utah’s Dixie, the San Rafael Swell and Lake Powell areas.

Snow levels will occur at 4,500-5,500 feet in most areas Friday evening through Saturday, lowering to the valley floors Saturday evening through Sunday night.

Precipitation will become widespread and heavy at times Saturday. Precipitation will trend to snow by Saturday evening across all valleys.

Winds

Strong gusty southerly winds are forecast for Friday night and Saturday. Wind gusts may near 60 mph in the western valleys and exceed 70 mph on the ridgelines.

Strong winds may cause low visibilities in areas with blowing snow Saturday.

Impacts and precautions

Significant travel impacts are likely for the Christmas holiday weekend.

Utah law requires vehicles to have either steel link or cable chains or snow tires when driving roads in winter conditions October through March. Utah Department of Transportation’s infographic with particulars follows below.

Nobody plans to get stranded, but getting stranded in the snow can be especially dangerous.

Vehicle Preparation and Safety Precautions for Winter Weather

Stay in your vehicle

  • Disorientation occurs quickly in wind-driven snow and cold.
  • Run the motor about 10 minutes each hour for heat.
  • Open the window a little for fresh air to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Make sure the exhaust pipe is not blocked.
  • Make yourself visible to rescuers.
  • Turn on the dome light at night when running engine.
  • Tie a colored cloth (preferably red) to your antenna or door.
  • Raise the hood indicating trouble after snow stops falling.
  • Exercise from time to time, by vigorously moving arms, legs, fingers and toes to keep blood circulating and to keep warm.
  • Wear a hat, half your body heat loss can be from the head.
  • Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from extreme cold.
  • Mittens, snug at the wrist, are better than gloves.
  • Loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing in several layers is best, trapped air insulates and layers can be removed to avoid perspiration and subsequent chills.
  • Outer garments should be tightly woven, water repellent and hooded.
  • Safely removing tires and upholstery from your vehicle and lighting them on fire in a cleared area will create smoke to facilitate your being located.

Supplies recommended to be kept in your vehicle in case of emergencies

  • Cellphone; portable charger and extra batteries.
  • Windshield scraper.
  • Battery-powered radio, extra batteries.
  • Flashlights, extra batteries.
  • Snack food.
  • Extra hats, coats, mittens, change of clothes.
  • Blankets.
  • Chains or rope.
  • Tire chains.
  • Spare gas.
  • Canned compressed air with sealant (emergency tire repair).
  • Road salt and sand.
  • Booster / jumper cables.
  • Emergency flares.
  • Bright colored flag; help signs.
  • Lighter / Matches (waterproof matches and a can to melt snow for water).
  • First Aid kit – (Basic First Aid courses are recommended).
  • Spare water.
  • Hi-lift jack.
  • Spare tire with keys for locking lug nuts.
  • Spare keys.
  • Shovel.
  • Tow strap.
  • Tool kit.
  • Duct tape.
  • Trash bags.
  • Road maps.
  • Compass.
  • Towels, paper towels.
Avalanche conditions in the Moab area mountains, Utah, Dec. 22, 2016 | Image courtesy of Utah Avalanche Center, St. George News
Avalanche conditions in the Moab area mountains, Utah, Dec. 22, 2016 | Image courtesy of Utah Avalanche Center, St. George News

The foregoing recommendations were assimilated in 2015 from the Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue website, the Center for Disease Control’s emergency winter weather checklist, the U.S. Search and Rescue Task Force’s website on blizzard preparedness. This is a list of suggestions, in no particular order of priority, and should not be presumed exhaustive.

Printable / savable pdf: Vehicle Preparation and Safety Precautions for Winter Weather.

Avalanche conditions in Moab area mountains

Utah Avalanche Center indicates moderate to considerable avalanche risks throughout the day Thursday. The center released the following advisory:

The avalanche danger is MODERATE this morning but will likely rise to CONSIDERABLE later in the day on steep, wind exposed slopes in upper elevation terrain. Watch for fresh drifts, and recently formed wind slabs on the lee sides of ridge crests and terrain features, and look for signs of instability such as cracking or collapsing in the snow pack. Triggered wind slabs will also have the potential to step down into buried weak layers causing a deeper, and more dangerous persistent slab avalanche. Timing will be everything toady, and staying alert to changing conditions will be paramount.


Read more about being safe in areas at risk for avalanche at the bottom of this report: Center warns of hazardous avalanche conditions.


UDOT chain and snow tire infographic:

snow tire - chains - requirements - UDOT infographic

For winter road conditions from the Utah Department of Transportation:

 

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1 Comment

  • .... December 23, 2016 at 11:35 am

    This is absolutely a fantastic article. and I would like to thank all those involved in making this possible and I’m sure this will result in a positive reaction from the community. people need to leave as early as possible and slow down and give themselves extra time to get to their destination.

    enjoy the festivities of the holiday season and the joyous celebrations of the spiritual meaning. and make it back home to your loved ones

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