NWS says sky sometimes bluer on Morgan's side of mountains

Feb 1 2013 - 7:06am

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MORGAN -- Even when the Wasatch Front is choked with smog or smothered in snow, it might be blue skies and a sunny day on the other side of Weber Canyon.

Morgan Valley is in a "different weather regime," said Pete Wilensky, a meteorologist with National Weather Service.

This difference is not unusual, and these can happen inside of a few square miles, he said. Mountains and valleys everywhere create local effects. For example, Eden in the north end of Ogden Valley had 9 inches of snow Tuesday and Liberty had 30 inches.

"It's just the way it works out and the way mountains and valleys are arranged, how the wind was for that particular storm," he said from his Salt Lake City office. "That's not uncommon, either; local effects often control the weather."

So when the skies dumped snow over much of Northern Utah this week, it's not surprising that parts of Morgan County saw only 4 inches. When the inversion layer choked the Wasatch Front for about two weeks in January, the Morgan skies were typically clear and blue with an ever-so-slight haze facing north on Interstate 84 and crisp crystal to the south.

"Park City was similar to (Morgan city), and Heber and Coalville," Wilensky said about the recent smog.

"There was an inversion at night, and in the afternoons the inversions would break and mix out," he said. "It would stay trapped here. We weren't exchanging air at all. (Morgan Valley) was getting the nice, sunny weather."

A higher elevation can make a difference: Inversions are only 1,000 feet deep at the most, Wilensky said.

The NWS does not know exactly how much those local effects vary from one part of Morgan County to another or between Morgan County and its adjacent counties. There are no weather spotters there, he said.

"Morgan County is a 'data-poor area,'" Wilensky said. "We don't really get data from the Morgan Valley. We don't have any information to go by. We hear about the weather, but that's it ... We don't get reports from that area.

So no one known to the NWS records how many inches of snow fall or the average temperature variation from one side of Weber Canyon to the other. The Mountain Green community is closer to the mouth of the canyon, and weather next door will slip through, but it is different there from elsewhere.

Coalville neighbors said it has been 20 degrees below zero there during some recent chills.

"Some of those mountain valleys, they get bitter cold," he said.

That means people rely on what researchers call "anecdotal data," which means asking the neighbors what's going on higher in the valley, and then guessing how deep the snow got three years ago or so.

Glenn Allgood, owner of Glenn's Towing in Morgan County, said weather there hasn't been too bad lately. He hadn't needed to tow anyone stuck in the snow in Morgan County during the past few days.

But instead of crediting a different weather system, Allgood had a different interpretation.

"I don't think we have as many stupid drivers in Morgan as we do in the lower valley," he said.

Five vehicles wrecked near Mountain Green at I-84, Mile Marker 92, on the same spot during the past two weeks, Allgood said, but drivers slowed down after the state Department of Transportation put up a flashing warning sign.

"(For two days) I've had calls, but they haven't been in Morgan," he said. "It's been pretty easy around here. People will have a breakdown, but that can happen anytime. Snow hasn't increased my business in the county."

Allgood said the road crews deserved a thumbs up for doing a great job, and it wouldn't hurt people to "use the whole hand to wave" at them.

The sky in Ogden was hazy and gray on Wednesday, but Valerie Hancock, library director for Morgan County Library, said she saw some blue sky toward the northeast when she looked out the window.

Terry Turner, Morgan County emergency management director, said his office had not seen any weather-related problems.

"We didn't get hardly any snow today," he said. "Sunday there was 3 or 4 inches. There was maybe a quarter-inch on Monday. It hasn't hit here like it does the other side."

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