UDOT Crews Clear Avalanche Debris From Provo Canyon

Jan 18, 2019, 8:12 PM | Updated: 8:51 pm

VIVIAN PARK, Utah – Provo Canyon has reopened after a massive avalanche covered the entire roadway with snow up to 30 feet deep in some places.

The snowslide was manually triggered by crews Thursday night after wet, heavy snow fell in the higher elevations of the Wasatch Mountains. Fortunately the canyon had already been closed and the area cleared, so no one was in danger.

Snow covered the roadway overnight until crews from the Utah Department of Transportation could get to the scene to begin clearing the tons of snow and debris.

It wasn’t your typical day for UDOT employees who keep Provo Canyon clear in the winter Friday. The pile of snow was so big, they couldn’t plow it – they had to shovel it.

Skier Brian Bucknert stopped on his way to the slopes at nearby Sundance to see the massive slide for himself.

“That’s a pretty impressive avalanche,” said Bucknert. “It is a good sign we can have some good skiing and have the kind of resources to clear it safely.”

The impressive sight of snow covered at least 200 feet of both sides of the four lane highway, intentionally triggered by UDOT, to avoid a naturally occurring avalanche.

“We want to bring down snow that is posing a threat to traffic and had this come down on vehicles, the results could have catastrophic,” said John Gleason, UDOT spokesman.

Chopper 5’s view above the slide showed just how much snow came tumbling down from the steep canyon. Officials said it has been a trouble spot for years, when there is heavy and unstable snow in the canyon.

Front end loaders and track hoes slowly chipped away at the mountain of snow and debris.

“They are saying that this is really the equivalent of clearing concrete. It’s thick dense heavy wet snow that has a lot of debris, including trees, rocks (and) anything you can think of that came off the mountainside here,” Gleason added.

Even with the road cleared of the slide, the crews still have a lot of work ahead of them, as they’ll have to repair the guardrail and also the cable barrier damaged in the slide.

Those repairs will take place in the days and weeks to come.

The slide covered the highway in a place where it was easy for UDOT to detour traffic on the old highway road, keeping canyon traffic moving all day long, so people could enjoy the result of this winter storm.

“Tremendous amount of snow lately, I was up skiing day before yesterday, looking for another good day today,” Buckner said.

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UDOT Crews Clear Avalanche Debris From Provo Canyon