A winter storm watch has been issued for Utah’s mountains with “significant” snow expected.
SALT LAKE CITY — The National Weather Service on Friday issued a series of winter storm watches for several mountain ranges in Utah, where snowfall totals are expected this weekend.
The watch covers Utah’s Wasatch and West Uinta Mountains, as well as the state’s mountains in central and southwestern Utah. Meteorologists said the storm has the potential to deliver large amounts of snow in the mountains.
KSL Meteorologist Kevin Eubank explained that a pair of low pressure systems located over the Pacific Coast on Friday afternoon will merge, which is the reason for the alert. The first system, located near California’s Bay Area, will begin creeping into Utah on Saturday, bringing scattered rain and small snow to parts throughout the state.
“This thing will fall apart on arrival,” he added. “It doesn’t have the traction that we hoped it would have. … It’s spitting and flying (Saturday).”
The intensity of rainfall is scheduled to begin to increase Sunday morning, with the second system arriving in Utah from Alaska through the Pacific Northwest. It will provide a jolt of valley rain and mountain snow across the state.
National meteorologists on Saturday updated their winter storm watch to adjust their forecast for snow accumulation. Areas within the Wasatch Mountains and western Uintas are now expected to receive about 8 to 14 inches of snow, just below the 10 to 15 inches seen in the initial advisory. Parts of the Upper Cottonwood Valleys are now expected to see about 16 inches or more by Monday morning, which is also slightly lower than originally expected.
⚠❄ Here are the updated snow totals for this upcoming winter storm: Most of the central and northern mountains will see between 8″ to 12″ with locally higher amounts in the upper Cottonwoods (16″) and Tushar Mountains (20″). Stay tuned for further updates as these totals may change. #utwx pic.twitter.com/1tYpPvrYMq
– NWS Salt Lake City (@NWSSaltLakeCity) November 18, 2023
Central mountain areas, such as Cove Fort and Fish Lake, could also get 8 to 14 inches or more, up from 6 to 12 inches in the initial alert. It is expected to range from 6 to 12 inches in the southern mountainous areas, while it is possible to reach 20 inches in the Tushar Mountains.
Those accumulation forecasts “may change” as well, Weather Service officials wrote Saturday.
The timing and location of these low pressure systems will likely determine which areas get the most snow, KSL meteorologist Matt Johnson said Friday. All variables depend on where the second low pressure system lands. He added that some models favored stronger snow totals in central and southern Utah, which could mean less accumulation for the northern half of Utah.
Either way, the weather service says drivers should plan for slick roads and wintry driving conditions on mountain roads, starting Saturday morning in southern Utah. Traction restrictions are possible, if not likely, for many mountain passes such as Cottonwood Canyons.
“Slow down and allow more time to reach your destination,” the agency wrote.
The KSL weather model updated Friday evening forecast that many parts of the Wasatch Front will receive a half to three-quarters of an inch of rain over the weekend, with most of it falling Sunday. Some models suggest the weather could get cold enough to become a mix of rain and snow in the valleys Sunday evening, Eubank said.
Most other parts of the state are also gearing up to receive good rainfall this weekend. Both systems are expected to be cleared by Monday morning, when the last warnings expire.
This comes on the heels of a smaller storm that passed through the state on Thursday, dropping a few inches of snow in Utah’s mountains. Both are something Utah skiers and snowboarders may be thankful for before Thanksgiving. Most ski resorts in Utah are waiting for snow to start the next ski season or expand their operations. Only four of Utah’s 15 resorts are open right now.
Another storm could head toward Utah by Thanksgiving, Eubank said.
The complete seven-day weather forecast for areas across Utah can be found online at the KSL Weather Center.