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Snowstorm brings snowpacked highways, restricted canyon roads to Utah Saturday

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Posted at 7:47 AM, Jan 30, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-31 10:56:33-05

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – An overnight avalanche kept American Fork Canyon closed for much of the day Saturday, but the Utah Department of Transportation said close monitoring of conditions allowed them to close the road before it happened.

UDOT closed the canyon Friday night, anticipating the hazardous conditions. Forecasters with the US Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center said wet dense snow on top of unstable layers caused elevated avalanche dangers along much of the Wasatch Front

“The storm came in very warm,” said forecaster Craig Gordon. “Lots of wind, along the upper elevation ridges. That bumped up the avalanche hazard, and now even the lower elevations, the mountain valley locations are starting to get in on the act.”

Snow crews set out early in the day clearing roads. UDOT spokesperson John Gleason said that allowed them to stay on top of the snowy conditions.

“We don’t have as much traffic, we don’t have that major commute times that we would during the week," Gleason said. “So that allows our plows the opportunity to get out and clear the roads and make them safe for everyone.”

Utah Highway Patrol responded to several accidents, but the majority just had minor injuries.

A winter weather advisory issued Saturday expired at 5 p.m., and there was snowfall in much of northern Utah throughout the day. Two to four inches were expected along the northern Wasatch Front while the southern Wasatch Front saw between 1 and 2 inches. Ten to 20 inches are expected to accumulate in mountain areas.

While most precipitation in low-elevation areas was expected to end by Saturday evening around 5 p.m., snow fall could persist in the mountains and in areas of higher elevation.

Conditions are expected to remain hazardous throughout the weekend, both on the road, and in the backcountry.

“Any slope that’s steeper than about 30 degrees, we encourage anyone heading into the back country simply stay off of, and out from under steep slopes,” said Gordon.

Current avalanche conditions can be found at the Utah Avalanche Center's website. Road conditions can be found at UDOT's website.