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No joke, brown snow falls throughout northern Utah

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Posted at 6:01 PM, Feb 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-06 20:54:08-05

SOUTH JORDAN, Utah — You know what they say about yellow snow, but what about brown snow that falls from the sky? People across the entire west side of the Salt Lake Valley and around Tooele Valley experienced a weird phenomenon Friday, as "dirty"-looking snow rained down out of nowhere.

But don't worry — it's not dangerous, though you might be saying "ew" in your head when you find out what it actually is.

PHOTO GALLERY: Brown snow in Utah

FOX 13 viewers sent in photos of the yellow to light-brown snow from places like Tooele, to Magna to South Jordan to Eagle Mountain.

"I thought maybe the sun was shining, trying to shine kind of weird," said Dave Olsen, who took a video of yellow snow in his yard in Copperton.

But nope, it wasn't the sun.

Jill Taylor took a video of running her hands through the very off-white powder.

"How does it snow white, clean snow — and then leave a layer of brown on top of it?" she asked.

Kaylene Yeates in Magna thought her car was just dirty, but then realized the brown snow was everywhere around her.

"I was like, 'Is the air dirty? Is it disgusting? What's going on?'" she recounted.

"When snow turns a yellow or brownish color, it's usually due to the snow picking up pollutants as it falls through the atmosphere," explained National Weather Service meteorologist Linda Chang.

But don't be alarmed by the word "pollutants." In Friday's case, Chang explains, they believe what snowed down is much more organic.

"In the case today, we believe that it's caused by dirt that's being picked up across northwest Utah," she said. "We're seeing some pretty strong northwest winds, with gusts over 40 miles per hour out across the northwest deserts and the salt flats."

Chang described how an unusually dry winter in Utah has left the soil in the West Desert and salt flats less frozen and compact than during a normal winter.

When the winds kicked up Friday, so did the dirt and dust. It blew east, mixing with the storm that moved in over the Wasatch Front.

"It gets collected in the snow, and then as it falls, the snow will turn a brownish or yellowish color," Chang said.

A strange occurrence, but Chang said it's not dangerous.

It just means that West Desert dirt left front lawns and cars covered in a weird snow/mud mixture.

So, go ahead and make those snow angels. Dig in and make a snowman. You just might need to wash some light mud off afterward.