Weather: At Sundance, slide-offs get spotlight instead of stars

Summit County had 140 slide-offs by 8 p.m. Saturday, says UHP.
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Park City • For once, the action at Sundance wasn't on Main Street.

With the festival in full swing Saturday, a powerful winter storm made getting to — and getting around — the mountain resort town something out of a horror film.

"It's just been accident after accident after accident," Park City Police Officer Ben Powers said about midway through his shift.

National Weather Service meteorologist Eric Schoening said the snow showers were expected to taper off in the Salt Lake Valley early Sunday. In the mountains, more heavy snow — another foot to 1½ feet — was expected overnight. Schoening said the heaviest of the snow was expected overnight, and the last of the mountain showers were expected to wrap up around noon Sunday.

An avalanche late Saturday closed Little Cottonwood Canyon and authorities did not immediately know when it would reopen.

UDOT spokeswoman Tania Mashburn said crews would be working through the night to clear roadways — particularly the route to the Sundance festival — but just how passable mountain roadways will be come morning will depend on the weather.

"We're definitely dedicated to it and to try to keep it open," she said. "We'll just have to see how the weather cooperates."

Authorities advised motorists to check Sunday for the latest on road conditions and restrictions.

On Saturday, Park City's police force, typically focused on keeping the peace outside premieres and the clubs in the center of town, had its hands full with fender-benders and pushing rental cars out of the snow.

As soon as Powers and another officer had helped push a Mini Cooper off the street and into a parking lot, the officer was immediately called out to another wreck.

"I had everything nice and black this morning," said Tom Tuckey, who, nearing the end of a 12-hour shift, found himself sidelined for a time after a driver crashed into his plow truck. "Right now you can't find a black spot at all."

Instead of watching over the hordes of photographers snapping shots of the celebrities on Main Street, Powers found himself with a camera in his hand, documenting damage from crashes around town.

"We're not seeing much of Sundance today," one officer said at the scene of a crash.

With the snowfall picking up as the day went on, drivers on their way to and from Park City found themselves in white-knuckle conditions, on slick roads and facing low visibility.

By 8 p.m. Saturday, Utah Highway Patrol spokesman Joe Dougherty said there had already been 140 slide-offs in Summit County. Salt Lake and Utah counties had reported 18 injury crashes and 77 that didn't cause injury. Other counties also reported a few injury crashes, some slide-offs and non-injury collisions.

Dougherty said none of the injuries suffered were life-threatening.

Vehicles traveling on mountain and canyon roads Saturday — including the Cottonwood Canyons, Parley's Canyon and Provo Canyon — were required to have chains or 4x4 transmission.

Various roadways were closed briefly throughout the day, and UDOT officials expected State Route 143 between Panguitch and Parowan to remain closed until Sunday.

Mashburn said authorities were treating travel restrictions seriously. Dougherty said troopers Saturday night were enforcing the state's "chain-up law" and turning away motorists at the mouth of Parley's Canyon who were trying to navigate I-80 without chains or a 4x4 transmission. He said troopers will remain in place enforcing the restrictions until they are lifted.

A winter storm warning was in effect through late Sunday morning for a swath of northern Utah extending from Logan south through Ogden, Salt Lake City, Provo and Nephi. Nearly the entire state was under some sort of warning, watch or advisory heading into Saturday night and wind speeds of more than 80 mph had been reported in some areas around Utah.

Rocky Mountain Power reported various power outages scattered throughout the state Saturday, but expected most power to be restored by 1:30 a.m.

About 4 inches of snow fell on the Bountiful Bench and in Heber while about 3.5 inches was reported in the Upper Avenues in Salt Lake City, the weather service reported in its preliminary snowfall totals released about 7:20 p.m. Saturday night.

While the storm was a nightmare for motorists Saturday, it was likely considered a boon for winter enthusiasts and seasonal businesses. Snowbasin's Mid Bowl reported at least 14 inches of new snow; Deer Valley, 19 inches; Brighton Crest, 15 inches; Solitude, 13.5; and Provo Canyon and Snowbird, a foot each.

According to the Utah Avalanche Center, the avalanche risk was "extreme"on slopes near Logan, Ogden, Salt Lake City and the western Uintas, and "high" in the mountains near Provo and Manti-Skyline. Moab, in southeastern Utah, had a "moderate" risk grade.

Snow-weary residents were expected to see a brief break from snow Sunday afternoon, but light snow may fall Sunday night. Come Monday afternoon, another snowstorm is expected to blanket most of the state in white, though it appears Southern Utah may pickup more snow than the north, the weather service predicted. The heaviest snowfall was expected to arrive Monday afternoon through evening statewide.

In northern Utah, forecasters predicted a 50 percent chance of snow in the valleys and a 70 percent in the mountains. The valleys in Southern Utah were expected to see about 1 inch to 1.5 inches and the mountains 5 to 10 inches Monday.

While there may be some light snow later in the week, meteorologists said no significant storms are expected beyond Monday.

Bob Mims contributed to this story. —

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