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UDOT expects nasty traffic this week thanks to weather and holiday travel

(Photo: Plows at the ready at the UDOT Traffic Operation Center. Credit: Paul Nelson)

WASATCH FRONT – Road closures, crashes and slide-offs… the nasty weather is causing huge problems for drivers all over northern Utah.  Transportation officials say we aren’t out of the woods yet either.

Snowfall has been a factor in several serious crashes across the northern portion of Utah.  The Utah Highway Patrol says they responded to 270 crashes statewide and still had 25 or 30 to get to as of 9:30 Monday night.


One of those crashes investigators say proved fatal when a semi driver lost control on I-15 near Riverdale Road, slamming into another semi that was pulled off the road and killing the driver who was outside of his rig.  Heavy, quick snowfall also shut down  Sardine Canyon and Little Cottonwood Canyon were both closed due to crashes.

Traffic watchers say the mountain passes will see a lot of issues over the next few days.

“[From] Parley’s Canyon to Big and Little Cottonwood Canyon, we’re going to see those higher elevations take a little more of the brunt of the storm,” according to UDOT Spokesman John Gleason.

Thanksgiving is traditionally one of the busiest travel holidays of the entire year, and Gleason says the weather forecast doesn’t fill them with confidence.  Their meteorologists say more snowfall is expected to hit on Wednesday, right when most people will be traveling.

Gleason says, “That is not the ideal time because that is when everybody is going to be out on the road, not only for the evening commute, but a lot of people are just getting off of work and hitting the road to get to where they want to go for Thanksgiving.”

Plus, there will likely be more on Thursday and Friday.  Sunday afternoon is also expected to be extremely heavy, traffic-wise.  Gleason says they’re already expecting at least 30 minutes of delays on the freeways.

“That’s just with the holiday traffic.  If you throw in a winter storm, then we could be talking about a real challenging situation on our roads,” he says.

Safety experts say the weather doesn’t actually cause anyone to lose control, rather, we force ourselves to lose control by not driving safely when conditions are bad.  Gleason says it’s important to have things like emergency kits in our cars just in case we get stranded.  Plus, since we don’t have mandatory safety inspections every year, it’s up to us to ensure our cars are able to handle the snow.

“These are the months that you really need to make sure that you have proper tread, because if you’re out there and there are slick conditions, that’s when you’re going to be able to tell that you don’t have the proper tires.  Unfortunately, [it would be] too late,” Gleason says.