Summer Avalanches in Little Cottonwood Canyon

Violent storms on August 9, 2019 in the Salt Lake and Utah Counties area resulted in flooding and mud & rock slides in several canyons and nearby run-off zones. Here are a few articles from The Salt Lake Tribune chronicling the aftermath.

“Strong storm wreaks havoc on Utah canyon roads”

The Salt Lake Tribune
August 8, 2019
By Paighten Harkins

Heavy rains from a strong storm passing through the Wasatch Front on Thursday evening… Unified Police in Salt Lake County responded to a rock and mudslide just before 8:30 p.m. in Little Cottonwood Canyon near Snowbird Resort. Police later reported rock and mud debris throughout the canyon and closed it Thursday evening. It will likely be closed overnight. UPD told FOX 13 that some people and 25 cars are trapped in a half-mile stretch between Tanner Flat and B gate in Little Cottonwood Canyon. None of those people were injured.

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“Roads start to reopen after mudslides”

The Salt Lake Tribune
August 9, 2019
By Benjamin Wood

In Salt Lake County, a line of about two dozen vehicles, including Utah Transit Authority ride-sharing vans, were queued in a parking lot at 9:45 a.m. at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon, waiting for an escort up the road. Most of those waiting appeared to be employees at Snowbird and Alta — the two resorts in the canyon — though a few people in hiking gear or with suitcases waited, too.


Officials with the town of Alta posted on social media Friday that motorists will be allowed to drive up the canyon during a 30-minute window from 5 to 5:30 p.m. A 30-minute window for downhill traffic will follow from 5:30 to 6 p.m., after which the road will be shut down overnight.


Unified Police Detective Ken Hansen said Friday that an exposed gas pipe in the canyon was adding to the delays for the road to reopen.…”There was a slide in Big Cottonwood Canyon,” Hansen said, “but it didn’t impact the road.”

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“Little Cottonwood Canyon is open again after crews cleared away storm debris”

The Salt Lake Tribune
August 10, 2019
By Paighten Harkins

Little Cottonwood Canyon is back in business.


Carlos Braceras, executive director of the Utah Department of Transportation, tweeted at about noon Saturday that crews had reopened the popular canyon, clearing away storm debris that had blocked the roadway.


“This represents extraordinary effort once again by the same people who kept your roads safe during last winter’s heavy snowfall,” Braceras wrote.

Little Cottonwood — home to the Alta and Snowbird resorts — is a busy weekend recreation spot.

The resort wasn’t open Friday because of the road closure but was back to “business as usual” Saturday, Brown said, just in time to prepare for Monday’s 2019 Tour of Utah Prologue bike race.

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“Little Cottonwood Canyon needs pricey repairs after mudslides, with water still flowing over the roadway”

The Salt Lake Tribune
August 17, 2019
By Lee Davidson

Snowbird • The Utah Transportation Commission long ago scheduled meetings last week at Snowbird to talk about avalanche control. Thanks to violent storms last week, the discussion Friday turned instead to mudslides.


To reach the meeting, members drove through five places where obstructions from the mudslides on Aug. 9 are still forcing water across the road in Little Cottonwood Canyon. The highway is open, but slow and soggy at points as cars splash through.


That unplanned demonstration proved far more effective than a PowerPoint presentation as Utah Department of Transportation officials gave a heads-up that they will soon request some expensive emergency funding for permanent repairs there.


While cost estimates are not yet finalized, “we’re pushing $1 million just in Little Cottonwood Canyon,” said Bryan Adams, director of UDOT’s Region 2. He adds that UDOT will also seek emergency federal funding for damage around the state from the storms.


“All of our culverts in the canyon are plugged solid with rocks,” he said, sending water over the road in many places. All the pipes must be replaced before winter hits.

UDOT Director Carlos Braceras said, “In my 40 years around the canyon, I’ve never seen anything like it.”

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(UDOT drone footage showing damage in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Video courtesy of Utah Dept. of Transportation.)

Rocks the size of small cars and an avalanche of debris. In some areas the slide reached 15 feet deep. Our crews will be hard at work for the next several days making sure the road is safe.
John Gleason, UDOT
August 9, 2019 at 6:41 AM

Water is still flowing in Little Cottonwood Canyon. At the end of this video you will see an exposed gas line that was unearthed by the intense flooding.
John Gleason, UDOT
August 9, 2019 at 7:21 AM

Officials provide information about a landslide that forced the closure of Little Cottonwood Canyon.
KSL 5 TV was live.
August 8, 2019 at 9:21 PM


Screen-capture still images from UDOT drone video.

Aerial images of debris at Lisa Falls in Little Cottonwood Canyon.