Weather closes parts of I-80
January 22, 2019
The Utah Department of Transportation made the difficult decision to close the eastbound lanes of Interstate 80 at Parley's Summit Monday morning for a couple hours when snowplows were unable to keep up with the significant accumulations of snowfall.
John Gleason, UDOT's public information officer, said the snowplows are able to handle about an inch of snowfall per hour. However, several inches were coming down in the early morning hours of Monday, preventing the plows from doing their jobs.
"Not only could we not get through there, the snow continued to pile up to where it became a hazardous situation and we didn't want to send any more vehicles into it," he said. "That was by far the biggest snow that we've seen this season."
More than 15 inches of snow blanketed the Wasatch Back on Monday. UDOT, along with the help of the Utah Highway Patrol, closed the eastbound lanes of Interstate 80 at Parley's Canyon at around 7:50 a.m. The westbound lanes were restricted to four-wheel drive vehicles and vehicles with chains during that time. Gleason said there is about a 3,000-foot climb in the canyon.
"What happened was there were a lot of slide-offs and people who weren't equipped to be driving in those conditions," he said. "We made the decision to close it down and get the plows in there. We don't like to do that very often because anytime you are closing a major interstate, that can have serious impacts to travel. But, yesterday the determination was made to close the canyon because we were receiving several inches of snow per hour."
Cpl. Chris Bishop, with the Utah Highway Patrol, said there was one crash involving a snowplow at around 7:30 a.m. near the summit of Parley's. He said that caused some problems because it took the plow out of commission. Another accident involving a semi-truck near Morgan in the westbound lanes closed Interstate 84.
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"There was just a lot of snow," he said. "With it being the holiday, there were a lot of people trying to get out and go do something and get up in the canyon."
The interstate near Parley's Summit was eventually reopened at around 10 a.m., but remained restricted to vehicles with chains or four-wheel drive. Interstate 84 was reopened after 11 a.m.
Troopers with the Utah Highway Patrol had responded to 189 crashes statewide as of 3 p.m. Monday.
Lt. Andrew Wright, with the Summit County Sheriff's Office, said deputies responded to three traffic accidents and nine slide-offs on Monday throughout the county. The numbers were a little lower than what Wright would anticipate during a heavy snow storm on a Monday.
"Part of the reason for the low numbers could have been because it was a holiday and we have less commuters coming in and out for work," he said. "The shutdown of the interstate may have also played a role into the less traffic."
Law enforcement encouraged commuters to keep an eye on the weather and road conditions during heavy snow storms, emphasizing the need to plan ahead especially during the Sundance Film Festival, which begins Thursday.
"Plan extra time for your trip. There will be lots of visitors in town over the next couple of weeks, so know where you are going and what your conditions are," Bishop said. "Keep your speed. Just because you can't see ice doesn't mean it is not there. Keep speeds reasonable and low and increase following distances."
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