Snowstorms disrupt Park City as Sundance setup looms
Dump trucks dispatched to Old Town for hauling operation
January 6, 2017
A relentless set of snowstorms disrupted everyday chores in the Park City area and made driving difficult over the past week, sending snowplow and snow-hauling crews into action even as more snow is forecast.
The snow also arrived at a critical time as City Hall and many businesses are days away from starting to prepare in earnest for the opening of the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 19.
The storms have lifted the snowpack in the Park City area and repeatedly covered the slopes with new snow, delighting skiers. The National Weather Service reports the snowpack is at 115 percent of normal at a measuring station at an elevation of approximately 8,200 feet in Thaynes Canyon. The figure is at 130 percent of normal throughout northern Utah.
"It's fabulous. It's been awesome. More than a weather guy, I moved here to ski," said Brian McInerney, a National Weather Service hydrologist who closely tracks snowpack in the state.
McInerney explained that high-pressure systems were prevalent from the fall of 2011 until the spring of 2016. The systems blocked storms from the region, sending them to the north or the south and resulting in low snow totals. High pressure has not been as prevalent as it has been in the past five years and the jet stream has shifted to the south, he said. That has led to the "progressive weather pattern" this winter, McInerney said.
He said the near-term forecast calls for the possibility of rain on Sunday night and Monday at elevations below 7,500 feet followed by a snowstorm at all elevations of the Park City area on Thursday.
People across Park City have been seen shoveling driveways, sidewalks and curbs over the past week. The shoveled snow appears to be stacked four feet high or more in many locations in Old Town. City Hall snowplows and snow-hauling teams have been seen attacking the snow.
Park City sent crews into Old Town last week to remove snow from the tightly packed neighborhood in a hauling operation involving heavy machinery. Troy Dayley, the streets manager in the Public Utilities Department, said the crews hauled snow off lower Park Avenue, Daly Avenue and most of Main Street by Thursday afternoon. He hoped to complete the haul of up to 10 streets in the neighborhood by Monday morning. It is the third hauling operation this winter.
Dayley said upward of 10 dump trucks and three front-end loaders are involved. A large snow-blowing machine able to fill a dump truck in less than two minutes is also part of the operation. The dump trucks haul the snow to City Hall-owned land close to Quinn's Junction for storage.
Snow hauls like the ongoing one are needed to ensure streets in Old Town are passable. Snow would quickly pile up on the curbs, noticeably narrowing the streets, without a hauling operation.
Parked cars make the operation more challenging. City Hall has relaxed restrictions in two locations to encourage people to park there instead of on Old Town streets where hauling operations are planned.
Parking is available in the lot across Park Avenue from the Park City Library. There will not be time restrictions through Jan. 15. The covered levels at the China Bridge garage are available in the overnight hours, from 8 p.m. until 8 a.m., through Jan. 15. Daytime restrictions in the covered levels remain intact.
The snow arrived in the two-plus weeks before Sundance, usually the busiest stretch of the calendar in Park City. The snow-removal operations are critical as City Hall prepares the community for the festival crowds, traffic and temporary setups. Sidewalks and pathways are important Sundance routes in addition to the roads. Much of the material to build the temporary setups, including the pieces of large tents and construction products, will be trucked into the city over the next 10 days or so.
Michelle Downard, the deputy chief building official at City Hall, said at least one temporary setup planned during Sundance has opted not to paint the exterior of a building based on the cold weather. Downard also mentioned that Sundance will have a widened footprint in the Main Street core this year, meaning there will be fewer places to move snow as the storms continue.
"Every last nook and cranny will be allocated," Downard said, adding, "They don't have the luxury of storing that snow in those parking areas."