Snow, rain and wind cause crashes and power outages in northern Utah

Apr 14, 2021, 6:27 PM | Updated: 6:27 pm
utah power...
(A snapshot from a UDOT traffic camera on US 40. Credit: UDOT Traffic Twitter)
(A snapshot from a UDOT traffic camera on US 40. Credit: UDOT Traffic Twitter)

SUMMIT COUNTY, Utah – The Utah Highway Patrol and Rocky Mountain Power had massive messes to clean up after strong winds and heavy snow in the northern areas.

The storm that hit I-80 in Parley’s Canyon and other parts of Summit County was small but stronger than many drivers were expecting. Officials say, at one point, the equivalent of three inches of snow per hour hit the freeway, causing many slide-offs and crashes.

One crash on S.R. 32 was serious enough to require one person to be cut out of a car.

Conditions were slippery in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyon, also. The “traction law” had to be enacted for both canyons, and a bus driver reportedly lost control of his vehicle in Big Cottonwood Canyon, which blocked the road.

Highway Patrol Spokesman Lt. Nick Street says a strong snowstorm in April shouldn’t be a surprise.

“As a trooper working the road, some of my worst snow days were in April.  Today was no exception for the troopers working in Salt Lake County and through Summit County,” Street said.

When people think of “wind damage,” Street believes people may imagine toppled trees or blown-over structures. However, Street said road debris is another big problem they see due to strong winds. He says bungees used to secure things like ladders to work trucks degrade over the winter, and a powerful gust of wind could make those bungees snap.

Street said, “We even had, at one point, a refrigerator that blew out of a vehicle on the freeway.”

Officials with Rocky Mountain Power reported there were thousands of customers dealing with power problems because of the weather. Spokesman Dave Eskelsen said there wasn’t one main outage as much as there were many small “damage points” that needed to be fixed around the clock.

“Whether it’s wind or real heavy snow, you’ll have a series of damage points as long as the weather lasts,” Eskelsen said.

After the winds died down, Eskelsen reported light rain caused power pole fires across northern Utah. This stems from insulators in the poles getting dusty.

He said, “When it first gets wet, that dust can conduct electricity over the surface of the insulator.” They’re pleased they didn’t get any reports of trees, branches or flying debris like trampolines causing any of their outages.

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Snow, rain and wind cause crashes and power outages in northern Utah