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UDOT employees survive avalanche in Little Cottonwood Canyon

(Remnants of the slide in the Seven Turns area that buried a UDOT truck. Credit: Paul Nelson)

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS, Utah– Utah Department of Tansit, UDOT, employees were parked in Little Cottonwood Canyon when an avalanche struck Tuesday. The crew was participating in a cleanup operation after the heavy snow this week. 

However, the cleanup effort is not what UDOT crews usually see. Spokesman John Gleason recalled slides kept getting triggered with more force and more debris than usual.

The series of slides were especially dangerous for two UDOT employees who were buried in snow while in their truck.

Roadway Operations Manager Jake Brown and his co-worker were parked in the Seven Turns area of SR 210. They decided to stay there since it was thought to be a relatively safe place. 

“We saw the windshield starting to cover over with snow.  Next thing I know, the avalanche was hitting my side door and window.  It moved my truck about four feet,” Brown said.

Brown recollected only having a second to react, which wasn’t enough time to be frightened.

“I wasn’t really scared, just kind of shocked as it came down. We knew we had been hit by an avalanche and we train for these things. We know it can happen.”

The two employees were able to climb out of a passenger side window then walk 200 yards to safety. Brown is aware they came extremely close to being seriously injured.

“It has full-sized trees, logs and everything and any one of those could have come through the window and killed us,” he says.  “We’re really lucky and glad to be here.”

(A closer shot of the remnant of the slide at the Seven Turns area. It shows the logs and branches carried by the snow. Credit: Paul Nelson)

 Workers were able to have Little Cottonwood Canyon reopened by 3:00 PM. People staying at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon, at Alta and Snowbird, are finally able to leave now after being stranded for several days due to avalanche control.