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Utah forecast: A balmy break Saturday, and then more snow

Published January 10, 2014 7:48 am

Avalanche danger • In the 'red' zone for most of the state's mountains this weekend.
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Utahns along the Wasatch Front had an unexpectedly pleasant Friday after an snowstorm petered out early and set up what should be a balmy beginning to the weekend.

Though forecasters initially believed snow and wind would pelt the Wasatch Front for most of Friday, the storm weakened and passed with barely a whimper. Mike Conger, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said the storm left a few inches of snow in the mountains but by mid afternoon had moved on.

"The storm seemed to have lost a lot of its punch as it came in here last night," Conger explained. "For the most part this storm is out of here."

The result was temperatures in the low and mid 40s Friday, along with patchy skies — not bad for early January.

Conger said much of Saturday would be even more mild, with sunny skies in the morning and clouds in the afternoon. Forecasters even expected highs along the Wasatch Front to top out in the low 50s Saturday. Much of northern Utah may also see windy conditions, with the West Desert and areas near the Idaho border seeing the most intense activity.

The break from cold and wet weather, however, will short lived. Conger said the next wave of turbulence — a cold Pacific storm — should arrive late Saturday and early Sunday. The warmer temperatures may produce rain at first, but by Sunday temperatures will drop and turn the precipitation to snow. Conger said mountains could get up to a foot of snow by later Sunday, while the valleys will likely see several inches.

A week's worth of snowstorms also mean dangerous backcountry conditions going into the weekend. The Utah Avalanche Center rated no less than four of the state's six mountain districts — Salt Lake, Ogden, Provo and the Uintas — as "high" for the risk of potentially deadly snowslides. The Skyline area of central Utah was listed at "considerable" risk, while the Moab mountains earned a "moderate" avalanche risk grade.

The Center reported there was a human-triggered slide on the Manti Skyline in central Utah Friday that was 250 feet wide, 3-5 feet deep, but no one caught.

You can blame a week's worth of intermittent storms for dumping snow on unstable slopes for the elevated avalanche risks. The National Weather Service reported that Thursday's storm, for instance, unloaded 17 inches of new snow at Brighton Ski Resort's crest; Snowbird and Alta got 12 inches; Power Mountain and Park City's summit measured 11; the town of Liberty had 10; Solitude 9; and Eden 8 inches.

The Wasatch Front's high temperatures on Saturday were to reach into the low-40s under mostly cloudy skies. However, afternoon valley rain and mountain snow was expected, a wetter trend expected to continue into early Sunday.

Southern Utahns looked for highs in the mid-50s under partly cloudy skies to give way to sunshine on Saturday.

The Utah Division of Air Quality gave the entire state its "green," or healthy breathing rating through the entire weekend.

For more extensive forecast information, visit the Tribune's weather page at http://www.sltrib.com/weather.

jdalrympl@sltrib.com