SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A backcountry avalanche warning was in effect Monday for much of northern Utah after a Christmas storm dumped more than a foot of snow in the upper elevations and several inches along the Wasatch Front.
At least 16 inches of snow had fallen at Park City, with nearly 8 inches at West Weber and 5 inches at Bountiful and South Ogden, the National Weather Service said.
Salt Lake International Airport reported 4 inches of new snow on the ground. Logan had 3.8 inches.
The snow was expected to end by Monday evening, but the avalanche warning was in effect through 6 a.m. Tuesday for the Bear River Range, western Uintas and all the Wasatch range, including Ogden, Provo, Salt Lake and the Park City area.
The U.S. Forest Service’s Utah Avalanche Center said the danger is high because the wet snow is especially prone to slide.
“This isn’t our powder snow that we’re known for,” KSL meteorologist Dan Guthrie said.
The storm moved in on the heels of unseasonably warm weather, especially in southern Utah, where the high temperature on Saturday tied the record of 52 degrees in Cedar City set in 2014, the weather service said.
Mark Staples, director and avalanche forecaster for the Utah Avalanche Center, said a number of avalanches were reported over the weekend.
“It’s already dangerous,” he told the Deseret News , partly because the slides can be initiated from above or below by movement happening some distance away.
“The ‘big red flag’ is that those avalanches were triggered ‘remotely,’” he said. “What that means is that as you’re walking up to the slope, you trigger an avalanche without actually getting onto that slope.”
At mid-elevations, the danger will be moderate. Even in wind-sheltered terrain, avalanches may be possible because new snow is landing on a weak snowpack, the center said.
Reduced early season snow creates a shallow and weak snowpack that cannot support the weight of new snow, Staples said.
“It’s kind of like there is a layer of dominoes underneath,” Staples said. “As you walk up, you tip that first domino and the rest just fall down.”