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UDOT workers reflect on surviving avalanche in Little Cottonwood Canyon

Posted at 9:13 PM, Feb 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-18 23:13:59-05

LITTLE COTTONWOOD CANYON — Two Utah Department of Transportation employees working in Little Cottonwood Canyon were caught in an avalanche early Wednesday morning.

“Hit my truck, broke my mirror,” said Jake Brown while pointing at this work truck.

If it wasn’t for Jake’s vehicle, he likely wouldn’t have survived a massive avalanche.

Read: UDOT workers safe after being hit by Little Cottonwood Canyon avalanche

“I got dented here a little bit and this got pushed in right here,” he said.

Jake and a coworker sat in the truck waiting to clear debris from avalanche mitigation further up the canyon. Then snow suddenly covered his windshield.

“I am not going to lie. I was a little scared. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I didn’t know if the window was going to bust. If we were going to be buried and not be able to get out.”

The avalanche slid his truck four feet, closer to a 300 foot drop. Then silence.

WATCH: Incredible video shows avalanche mitigation work in Cottonwood Canyons

“When I rolled [my window] down, it was solid ice right here. I could not move it and it froze up like concrete.”

Eventually, Jake and his coworker dug out and ran to safety down the canyon.

“It really didn’t stop snowing for three days,” said UDOT Avalanche Safety Program Manager Steven Clark.

Clark tracked more than 200 natural slides this week in the Cottonwood Canyons. Feet of heavy, new snow created extremely dangerous conditions.

“We still have a very unstable snowpack that is adjusting to the new weight and stress that’s been applied to it. I’d say by no means are we out of the woods,” said Clark.

Read: Avalanche danger remains 'high' in most Utah mountains, 'extreme' in Salt Lake area mountains

It took a crew hours to clear the avalanche off the road and dig out the truck. While the danger continues to loom in the backcountry, Jake knows he got off easy.

“I never thought I’d get hit by one but we did and it was scary I don’t want to repeat that ever,” Jake said.