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Huge Avalanche Triggered By Control Crews Closes Provo Canyon


Thursday evening, after closing the road, the Utah Department of Transportation set off an avalanche on SR 189 through Provo Canyon.  Road Crews plan to work (ed) through the night on Thursday and a Utah Highway Patrol spokesperson said they may continue to work on it through the day on Friday. (today) Carolyn Murray has this report:

Sargent Nick Street, with Utah Highway Patrol said UDOT was monitoring Provo Canyon for signs of instability on the steep mountainside above SR-189 in Provo Canyon. It rained much of the day on Thursday at the lower elevations, but snow fell most of the day in the mountains.

“Crews were concerned with the possibility of an avalanche in Provo Canyon near milepost 12 on 189. And, they were actually going to do some demolition and they had closed the road, just in case it triggered something this big. They weren’t expecting it to."

UDOT spokesperson, John Gleason said they have their own avalanche crews.  It’s not uncommon to close the canyon to do control work and they planned to have it open by 10 pm on Thursday. The size of the avalanche surprised even experienced control crews.

“We do avalanche control quite frequently. You ask when the last time an avalanche like this came down. This may be the biggest one our crews have seen in quite some time. I talked to a few people down there and they said in the 25 years they’ve been there, this is the largest slide that they’ve seen.”

Street said there’s damage to road structures, but no people were involved, and no vehicles were on the road.

“And, it brought a big swath, up to 30-40 yards wide, 30 feet deep, we’re learning now across all the lanes. And, if you can see from some of the pictures that we’ve tweeted out, it’s done some pretty good damage to the median rail and the cable barriers. I’m sure it’s done more to the railing on either side of the roadway too. Other things we’ll have to fix once we get the snow cleared but this clean up is going to take hours.”

Gleason said the continuing snow fall creates more of a risk in Provo Canyon.

“It really has been a wet, heavy snow and the heavier it is, the farther it slides. And, that’s where we saw it come out onto the road. We don’t often have avalanches we trigger come out onto the road. It does happen from time to time but this one was one of the biggest.”

Provo Canyon will reopen once the crews have cleared the slide and they’ve determined it is safe to travel through the canyon.  Go to UDOT.utah.gov for updates.


KPCW reporter Carolyn Murray covers Summit and Wasatch County School Districts. She also reports on wildlife and environmental stories, along with breaking news. Carolyn has been in town since the mid ‘80s and raised two daughters in Park City.