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Little Cottonwood Canyon remains closed after mudslides; brief openings announced

Posted at 7:01 AM, Aug 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-10 00:25:42-04

LITTLE COTTONWOOD CANYON, Utah -- Little Cottonwood Canyon is closed Friday as crews work to clear the aftermath of nine different mudslides, but the canyon will open briefly Friday evening.

Unified Police said the canyon will be open to uphill traffic between 5 to 5:30 p.m. and downhill traffic from 5:30 to 6 p.m. Friday.

A tweet from the town of Alta said traffic in both directions will be allowed between 6 and 6:30 a.m. Saturday, if SR-210 hasn't fully reopened by then.

Authorities said they began receiving reports of the mudslides around 8 p.m. Thursday near the base of the canyon and near Snowbird Resort.

Several people were trapped in their cars for hours between those two points until crews could bring in heavy equipment to clear out a path.

"We're talking 2, 3, 4-feet deep just of mud, then there's some pretty large boulders in the way too," Det. Ken Hansen of Unified Police said of the mess. "We really lucked out by no one hitting a rock or anything... A lot of times these slides occur kind of slowly so you can see them coming, and I'm hoping that's what happened here."

The motorists who were stranded were taken to Alta and Snowbird to spend the night, and around 9:30 a.m. Friday they were allowed to drive back down the canyon. No injuries were reported.

While the stranded motorists were allowed to make their way back down, the road remains closed and may not open again until Saturday.

John Gleason, a Utah Department of Transportation spokesman, said Friday that employees with 30 years experience in the canyon have said they've never seen anything like this. UDOT states there are nine different slide areas that left debris ranging from 2 to 15-feet deep.

"Rocks the size of small cars and an avalanche of debris," Gleason stated in a tweet. "In some areas the slide reached 15 feet deep. Our crews will be hard at work for the next several days making sure the road is safe."

Gleason said water is still flowing in the area Friday as of about 8:20 a.m., and the rushing water unearthed a gas line in the area.

The slides are believed to have been caused by recent and heavy rainfall. A mudslide has also closed US 6 in Spanish Fork Canyon and another slide prompted evacuations in that area briefly.

Authorities urge Utahns to be cautious while driving in canyons or other steep areas after rainstorms.