The last two months in Northern Utah have been unusually dry leading to scarey fire conditions as the 4th of July approached. Fortunately the fire and brimstone some expected did not happen after a week of triple digit temps. However in the last 2 days we have nearly made up for 2 months of dry weather in 2 short lived, but intense rain events.
Late on July 4th as the continuous concussions of patriotism dwindled, flashes appeared in the distance, those of lightning and not mortars. By mid-night the storm was full force with sheets of rain falling from the sky. By 2:30 A.M. the storm was gone but the damage was done. 1.5 inches or rain and nearly a dozen rock and mud slides had completely blocked Little Cottonwood Canyon and damaged sections of roadway.
Little Cottonwood was closed not unlike as if an avalanche had crossed. The avy gates where lowered across the road and Unified Police was blocking all access to the canyon from the bus stop at the bottom. Meanwhile UDOT road crews were busy in the dark of night with a full arsenal of heavy equipment including several snow plows (turned rock plows) working to clear the mess. The road did not open until over 12 hours after the fact at around 3pm.
Us skiers and riders are accustomed to the usual road closures in the winter for avalanche hazards but it’s a weird feeling waiting to go up canyon when it’s 90 degrees and all but deepest winter snow fields have melted. Once I finally managed to get to work it appeared to be turning into a stellar blue sky day, however things quickly changed from blue, to grey, to black. Little Cottonwood was about to close again. I rushed out of work and down canyon only to find another rock slide across the road. Taking matters into our own hands, and not wanting to be stranded on the wrong side of things, myself and several other Subaru’s braved the darkness, muddy water and shifting stones to the other side 200 feet away minutes before UPD shut the canyon down for a 2nd time in 24 hours. This second closure lasted from around 11 P.M. on July 5th until 6 A.M. July 6th.
Many of us look at mountains as massive unmovable objects that remain unchanged for centuries and millenniums at a time. Every now and then us mortal humans need to be taken back a step as Mother Nature takes back what is hers. If only briefly, it is still amazing to see the tonnage in the thousands of rock and mud moved in only a moment.