A fast-moving, heavy snowstorm blanketed much of Utah on Saturday, triggering dozens of traffic accidents including one that claimed the life of a truck driver on a stretch of Interstate 84.
Low visibility, freezing conditions and sudden snow flurries spurred a series of accidents on Interstate 84 in Weber Canyon involving at least four semitrailer rigs and about 20 cars, forcing a daylong closure of the interstate beginning about 6:30 a.m. That was when the primary chain-reaction accidents occurred involving one semi and 15 other vehicles near Mountain Green.
Utah Highway Patrol Lt. Steve Winward said the semi came to a rest on top of a Jersey barrier, and as the rig's driver, Mithat Nurko, 28, of San Jose, Calif., stepped out of the truck, he slipped and fell 50 feet to his death onto railroad tracks below. Five other drivers were transported to area hospitals in serious to critical condition, UHP said. Their identities were not immediately released.
As crews were cleaning up that accident, they diverted traffic through Ogden Canyon. Winward said a truck failed to navigate a blind curve there and knocked roadway barriers into the Ogden River. Crews had to close the canyon road for at least four hours Saturday afternoon to clean up that accident.
UHP had recorded more than 70 accidents, including three more involving semis, related to the storm before noon, when storm clouds gave way to sunshine.
In Salt Lake County alone, troopers said there were more than 50 crashes, 11 that caused injuries.
One of those occurred when a man in his early 20s was standing outside his vehicle, on Interstate 15 near 800 South and another car lost control and struck him.
The man was flown by medical helicopter to Intermountain Medical Center. He was expected to survive, Winward said.
He said troopers are asking anyone involved in a fender bender to move their vehicles off Utah highways and into a nearby parking lot if possible. By doing so, he said, it will make things safer for the motorists involved, the trooper investigating the crash, and other drivers, who might end up causing another accident because of the first. He said simply moving a vehicle off the highway to a nearby parking lot to wait for troopers to arrive would not be considered leaving the scene of an accident.
If a vehicle involved in an accident is unmovable, he recommended staying inside if possible because usually it's safer inside than out.
Heavy snowfall and ice on sagging tree limbs were blamed in part for scattered power outages. Rocky Mountain Power spokesman Jeff Hymas reported that about 250 customers were without power Saturday night in the Ogden area. Crews weren't sure when they expected to have power restored.
About 900 homes in the Magna area had been left in the dark early Saturday, Hymas said, but their services were restored shortly after 10 a.m.
Snow totals generally averaged about 5 to 10 inches in the mountains; 6 to 8 in the upper benches; 3 to 5 along the Wasatch Front; and Utah County only picked up about an inch, the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City reported.
The next storm system is expected to hit Utah late Sunday and into the night, but that's expected to mainly impact the southern half of the state. People in the path of that storm can expect to see a few inches of snow fall in the mountains and about an inch or two in the valleys, the weather service predicted.
The National Weather Service issued a special caution to hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts planning to visit the southeastern Utah mountains this weekend.
Along with the snow came wintry temperatures. Forecasters pegged northern Utah's high temperatures Sunday in the low 40s with overnight lows in the teens and 20s, while southern Utahns can expect temperatures near 50 in the day, but dipping down near freezing overnight.
Cimaron Neugebauer and Janelle Stecklein contributed to this report.
Snow totals (in inches)
Alpine • 1.5
Alta • 6.0
Bountiful bench • 5.2
Cedar City • 3.0
Cottonwood Heights • 8.5
Logan • 2.5
Salt Lake City • 4.0
Sandy • 7.0
South Ogden • 5.0
Tooele • 4.0
Source: National Weather Service in Salt Lake City