Little Cottonwood Canyon Clean-Up Continues After ‘Historic’ Storm

Feb 12, 2020, 5:58 PM | Updated: 6:38 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Snowplow crews with the Utah Department of Transportation continued heavy clean-up work along state Route 210 in Little Cottonwood Canyon after a massive snowstorm slammed the area a week ago.

Officials closed S.R. 210 for 54 hours after 48 avalanches were triggered in the canyon, burying one mile of the roadway in up to 15 feet of snow.

“(It was) absolutely crazy. Just nuts,” said Jake Brown, roadway operations manager for Big and Little Cottonwood canyons. “As soon as we got up there, I knew that we were in for the day of days.”

Traffic heading to Alta Ski Area has been using the bypass road this week and crews were hoping to clear the main road and prepare it for the upcoming holiday weekend.

Brown said he loves solving complex problems that come from situations like last week so skiers and snowboarders can enjoy the snow.

UDOT avalanche forecaster Mark Saurer added the historic storm brought down slides big enough to knock a truck off the road.

“Most folks agree this was a historic event,” he said. “When you combine the wind, the snow and water we got, plus the avalanche events we got — all three of them combined to a fairly historic event.”

Almost half of the 48 avalanches hit S.R. 210 and 15 of them were size three (out of five), or larger.

One of those larger slides brought down trees, boulders and rocks that buried the road in more than 15 feet of debris over a 100-yard stretch.

“Where the trees are broken, you can see some of the air pockets as it gets churned up,” Saurer said. “It’s just like a river, and those trees are getting tossed around in there just like in a river.”

Between Thursday and Friday, three-and-a-half feet of dense snow fell on top of a weaker layer. Sustained winds of 60 mph with gusts of 100 mph helped prime the snowpack for slides.

“All throughout here there’s … branches and twigs and full-size trees,” Brown said. “It’s just amazing what comes down with the slide, and it compacts very tightly.”

Brown said they hope to have the main road open before President’s Day weekend begins on Friday.

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Little Cottonwood Canyon Clean-Up Continues After ‘Historic’ Storm