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AM News Brief: Sandstorm Traffic Fatalities, Target Shooting Fire & Lakes Hit Record Lows

A photo of the Great Salt Lake.
Emily Allen
/
Flickr
Average water levels in the southern part of the Great Salt Lake are now the lowest ever recorded — about an inch lower than the previous record in 1963. This story and more in the Monday morning news brief.

Monday morning, July 26, 2021

State

Utah Schools Can’t Require Masks

Utah’s public schools won’t be allowed to mandate masks when students return next month because of a law passed by the Legislature in May. Meanwhile, cases are spiking and the more contagious Delta variant is becoming dominant. Some parents of high-risk kids are worried, but lawmakers stand by their decision. Because the Utah Department of Health can’t recommend that schools require masks, they’re working on a new set of suggestions to help schools keep kids safe. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

Northern Utah

Great Salt Lake Hits Record Low

Average water levels in the southern part of the Great Salt Lake are now the lowest ever recorded — about an inch lower than the previous record in 1963. The U.S. Geological Survey said water levels are expected to decline another full foot over the next several months. The lake has been shrinking for some time, according to the Utah Department of Natural Resources, but the current drought is accelerating the process. — Sonja Hutson

Target Shooting Sparks Fire

A wildfire broke out in Weber County near Pineview Reservoir on Saturday. The Art Nord Fire has burned more than 46 acres and is just 5% contained. The fire was started by target shooting and six structures were threatened. The U.S. Forest Service said in a statement that this fire shows how a small fire can grow quickly and threaten homes and recreation in these dry conditions. Target shooting is illegal within 600 feet of a structure. Currently, all of Northern Utah is in “extreme” fire danger. — Sonja Hutson

Gymnasts Come Up Short At Olympics

Two gymnasts with ties to the University of Utah fell short in the Olympics this weekend. Neither Grace McCallum nor MyKayla Skinner made the all-around Final or event finals. Skinner came in 11th and McCallum came in 13th overall. But, because they came in behind two other Americans, they didn’t qualify for the final. The Olympics only allow two gymnasts from each country to compete for each event or all-around in individual finals. Skinner tweeted that she was heartbroken but said she was “feeling so humbled and blessed for the amazing performance I had tonight!” — Sonja Hutson

Central/Southern Utah

Sandstorm Leads To Traffic Fatalities

A sandstorm in Millard County led to seven fatalities Sunday in a series of crashes on I-15. The Department of Public Safety said there were also various injured motorists in the crashes west of Kanosh. Several people were transported to area hospitals in critical condition. DPS said it appears at least 20 vehicles were involved in Sunday's crashes after high winds caused a sand or dust storm and impaired visibility on the roadway. The Utah Highway Patrol summoned troopers from Richfield and Beaver County to assist. Multiple ground and air ambulances also responded to transport victims. — Pamela McCall

Heavy Rain Damages Roads In Utah Portion Of Navajo Nation

Heavy rainfall on the Navajo nation has damaged roads in at least two communities in Utah. As of Sunday, the Navajo Division of Transportation has repaired washed out dirt roads in Navajo Mountain and Oljato. President Jonathon Nez said in a statement he’s grateful for the much needed rain and they are working to repair roads as quickly as possible. Navajo officials are also examining several dams that have excessively high water pressure due to the rain. — Sonja Hutson

Lake Powell At Lowest Level Since Filled

Lake Powell on the Colorado River has hit a new historic low point. The nation’s second-largest reservoir has dropped to its lowest level since it was first filled in the early 1960s. The Bureau of Reclamation recently began emergency releases from reservoirs upstream of Lake Powell to preserve its ability to generate hydroelectric power. Forty million people rely on it for their water. Read the full story. — Luke Runyon, KUNC