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Top Utah news stories of 2021

Posted at 5:34 PM, Dec 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-31 19:51:05-05

Just like 2020, the year 2021 will always be associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, Utah has lost nearly 3,800 people to the virus.

But there was also plenty of other news in 2021 — both good and bad.

In January, Utah started the new year with a new governor. Gov. Spencer Cox was sworn in at a COVID-friendly outdoor ceremony in Fillmore.

In February, Millcreek Canyon was the scene of the most deadly avalanche in modern history for northern Utah. Four backcountry skiers died.

Beginning in May, a series of wolverine sightings made the news. The predators are so elusive that little is known about their population in Utah.

After a mild winter, the spring of 2021 saw little rain. By July, the great salt lake reached its lowest level in recorded history. Scientists and state lawmakers are still grappling with how to preserve the lake and its ecosystem, which has ties to Utah's air quality and industries.

Summer rains did fall in southern Utah, leading to flooding in parts of St. George, Cedar City, and Enoch, where a state of emergency was declared on Aug. 2 with around 200 homes suffering damage.

In September, the nation's attention turned to Utah when 22-year-old Gabby Petito went missing. She and her fiance, Brian Laundrie, were documenting their cross-country adventure when he suddenly returned to Florida without her. Petito’s last social media post was made in Ogden. Her body was later found in Wyoming. Florida authorities say Laundrie took his own life as their investigation intensified.

In November, one of Utah's oldest institutions got a new name. After much deliberation, state lawmakers came to the conclusion that the term "Dixie" had too many negative connotations, and Dixie State University is now Utah Tech University.

In December, security cameras captured 19-year-old Snow College student Maddie Allen leaving her dorm building in Ephraim. Five days later, police captured the man who was holding Allen against her will and reunited her with her family.

Utah's economy roared. Only Utah and Idaho have more jobs now than before the pandemic, but there aren't enough workers to fill those jobs.

"Help wanted" signs were everywhere in 2021. But "for sale" signs on houses… not so much. The demand for housing helped push the average price of a home in the Salt Lake Valley past the half-million-dollar mark for the first time.

And finally, 2021 was a great year for Utah college football with three teams earning trips to bowl games. Utah State capped off a stellar season by winning the Mountain West Conference title and the first-ever L.A. Bowl. BYU narrowly lost the Independence Bowl but finished with a stellar record, being ranked in the top 25 for most of the season. And University of Utah is set to play in the "grand-daddy of them all" — the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day.