Winter storm watch issued for Utah’s mountains with ‘significant’ snow in forecast
Nov 18, 2023, 9:33 AM
(Laura Seitz, Deseret News)
SALT LAKE CITY — The National Weather Services on Friday issued a series of winter storm watches for several mountain ranges in Utah, where big snowfall totals are projected this weekend.
The watch covers Utah’s Wasatch and West Uinta ranges, as well as the state’s mountains in central and southwest Utah. Meteorologists said the storm has the potential to deliver “significant” snow totals in the mountains.
KSL meteorologist Kevin Eubank explained that a pair of low-pressure systems located over the Pacific Ocean coast Friday afternoon would merge, which is what’s behind the alert. The first system, located near California’s Bay Area, will begin to creep into Utah on Saturday, creating some small scattered rain and snow showers in parts throughout the state.
“This thing is going to fall apart as it comes in,” he said. “It does not have the oomph that (we) would hope that this would have. … It spits and sputters (Saturday).”
The precipitation will begin to increase in intensity on Sunday morning, as the second system arrives in Utah from Alaska via the Pacific Northwest. It’ll provide a jolt of valley rain and mountain snow across the state.
National Weather Service forecasters updated the winter storm watch on Saturday to adjust its snow accumulation projections. It now forecasts that areas within the Wasatch Mountains and West Uintas will receive about 8 to 14 inches of snow, slightly fewer than 10 to 15 inches in the initial advisory. Parts of the upper Cottonwood canyons are now expected to see about 16 inches or more by Monday morning, also a little less than originally expected.
⚠❄ Here are updated snow totals for this upcoming winter storm: most central and northern mountains will see between 8″ to 12″ with locally higher amounts in the Upper Cottonwoods (16″) and Tushar Mountains (20″). Stay tuned for further updates as these totals may change. #utwx pic.twitter.com/1tYpPvrYMq
— NWS Salt Lake City (@NWSSaltLakeCity) November 18, 2023
The central mountain areas, such as Cove Fort and Fish Lake, could also end up with 8 to 14 inches or more, up from 6 to 12 inches in the initial alert. About 6 to 12 inches are forecast for the southern mountain areas, though 20 inches are possible for the Tushar mountains.
Weather service officials wrote Saturday that these accumulation projections “may change,” too.
KSL meteorologist Matt Johnson said on Friday that the timing and location of these low-pressure systems will likely determine which areas get the most snow. The variables are all dependent on where the second low-pressure system lands. He added that some models have favored stronger snow totals for central and southern Utah, which could mean less accumulation for Utah’s northern half.
Either way, the weather service says drivers should plan for slick roads and winter driving conditions on mountain roads, beginning as early as Saturday morning in southern Utah. Traction restrictions are possible, if not likely, for many mountain passes like the Cottonwood canyons.
“Slow down and allow more time to reach your destination,” the agency wrote.
A KSL Weather model updated Friday evening projected that many parts of the Wasatch Front could receive half to three-quarters of an inch of precipitation over the weekend, most of which will fall on Sunday. Eubank said some models indicate it could get cold enough to switch over to a rain-snow mix in the valleys Sunday evening.
Most other parts of the state are also in line to receive decent precipitation this weekend. Both systems are expected to clear out by Monday morning, which is when the last of the advisories expire.
It follows a smaller storm that passed through the state on Thursday, which dropped a few inches of snow in Utah’s mountains. Both are something that Utah’s skiers and snowboarders might be thankful for ahead of Thanksgiving. Most of Utah’s ski resorts are waiting for snow to either begin the next ski season or expand operations. Only four out of the 15 resorts in Utah are open at the moment.
Eubank said another storm could be headed Utah’s way by Thanksgiving.
Full seven-day forecasts for areas across Utah can be found online at the KSL Weather Center.