Storm system expected to affect weekend travel at higher elevations

Background stock photo shows a long downhill straightaway on southbound Interstate 15 in Southern Utah in winter. | Photo by Willowpix / iStock / Getty Images Plus; Grunge Utah highway shield by uptonpark / iStock / Getty Images Plus; composite by St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A cold front is forecast to bring a mix of rain and snow to Utah roadways this weekend, including several routes in Southern Utah.

Travel map indicates routes affected by snow and slush in Utah Saturday and Sunday | Image courtesy Utah Department of Transportation, St. George News / Cedar City News

The National Weather Service in Salt Lake City has issued a hazardous weather outlook forecasting a storm system that is expected to move through Utah Saturday.

Accumulations of 2-4 inches of snow are expected to blanket mountain ranges at 5000-6000 feet in northern portions of the state and 6500-7000 feet in central, southwest and southeast Utah beginning Saturday evening. Valleys above 4,500 feet will likely experience brief periods of snow and rain mix with minimal accumulation.

The heaviest snow is anticipated just after sunset over central and southern Utah, which could result in slushy roads over mountain passes and along Interstate 15 between Cove Fort and Cedar City Saturday night.

Precipitation will then decrease from north to south overnight Saturday into Sunday morning as the cold front moves out of the state.

According to the Utah Department of Transportation, roads through higher mountain summits have the potential to develop patchy ice conditions overnight Saturday into Sunday morning affecting the following Southern Utah routes:

  • State Route 143 over Brian Head Flats, Parowan to Panguitch.
  • State Route 153 to Puffer Lake/Eagle Point.
  • State Route 14 over SR-14 summit, Cedar City to Long Valley Junction/US-89.
  • State Route 20 over SR-20 summit, between US-89 and I-15 at milepost 95.

A complete list of routes affected by the storm system in northern Utah areas can be found on the UDOT website.

Vehicle preparation and safety precautions for winter weather driving.

Getting ready

  • Be aware of road conditions. UDOT recommends checking CommuterLink or UDOT’s current road conditions or calling 511 for road and weather conditions before leaving home.
  • Clear any frost and snow from the car’s lights and windows. Make an effort to see and be seen while driving.
  • Inspect the vehicle’s tires, fluids, wiper blades, lights and hoses. Preventative maintenance may save a car from breaking down and stranding drivers and passengers on the highway.
  • Allow for leeway in travel time. Expect to drive slowly in adverse weather conditions. High speeds can lead to skidding off the road and getting stuck in the snow.

When driving

  • Take it slow. Drive well below posted speed limits and leave plenty of space between cars.
  • Approach intersections, off-ramps, bridges and shaded areas slowly. These areas are hot spots for black ice.
  • Slow down in cases of limited visibility and be alert.
  • Whether someone drives an elevated SUV or a ground-kissing Toyota Prius, again, UDOT says to take it slow. Just because a truck has 4-wheel drive doesn’t change how it handles on the road, especially when traction goes out the window. Mother Nature is no respecter of automotive diversity.
  • Keep the vehicle’s speed down. The faster the car goes, the longer it takes to stop. Be slow on the accelerator or risk having the car skid when the next stop sign appears.
  • Do not use the car’s cruise control while ice and snow still abound.

The above recommendations were compiled in 2015 from the Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue website, the Center for Disease Control’s emergency winter weather checklist and 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.

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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