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Northern Utah under avalanche warning

SALT LAKE CITY -- The National Weather Service has issued a backcountry avalanche warning for much of northern Utah after a Christmas storm dumped more than a foot of snow in the upper elevations and several inches along the Wasatch Front. Below average early season snow creates a shallow and weak snowpack which cannot support the weight of new snow, according to the Utah Avalanche Center. 

The service said 16 inches of snow had fallen early Monday at Park City, with 5 inches or more in Bountiful, South Ogden, West Haven and West Weber.

Salt Lake International Airport reported 4 inches of new snow on the ground.

The snow is expected to end Monday afternoon but the avalanche warning remains in effect through 6 a.m. Tuesday for the Bear River Range, western Uintas and all of the Wasatch range, including Ogden, Provo, Salt Lake and the Park City area.

Forestry expert Mark Staples told CBS affiliate KUTV the season's weather created optimal conditions for avalanches. In recent years, winters with below average early snowfall have been ones with above average avalanche deaths.

"The story starts back in September when we got our first snow. And that's the problem. That is the foundation of our snowpack and once we put snow on top of it, it can't support it and it produces avalanches. It's very loose and has no strength," Staples said. "The real red flag is that a lot of these avalanches are being triggered remotely. And on some distance away. So you can be walking up and trigger an avalanche without even getting up there."

Staples expected the worst chances of avalanche danger to occur over the next 2-3 days.

He said there hadn't been a deadly avalanche in northern Utah in 26 years.

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