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AM News Brief: Winter storm warning, film festival vaccine boosters & death of Hogle giraffe Riley

A giraffe looks into the camera. His head and neck are framed by a blue sky with whispy clouds.
Hogle Zoo
An elderly giraffe named Riley died at Hogle Zoo last week. That story and more in this morning's news brief.

Monday morning, Dec. 27, 2021

Northern Utah

Winter storm warning

A winter storm warning is in place for the Wasatch and Western Uinta Mountains. Ten to 18 inches of snow is expected — with winds as high as 50 miles per hour. A strong cold front will cross the area between 4 and 7 p.m. The National Weather Service warns the very heavy snow expected with this front will quickly impact Monday evening's commute. The winter storm warning is in effect until 8 a.m. Tuesday. — Pamela McCall

Film festival requires boosters

Everyone attending the Sundance Film Festival will need to receive a COVID-19 booster according to an announcement made by organizers last week. A vaccine requirement for the event was already announced in August. All attendees will need to verify their vaccination status through an online portal ahead of time. Organizers said theaters will be running at reduced capacity with no eating or drinking allowed, and masks are required at all festival-operated venues. On-line screenings are also available for the 2022 festival. — Lexi Peery

Broken lift strands skiers

On Friday, 167 skiers were stranded for several hours on a broken ski lift at Deer Valley Resort. Officials said the Carpenter Express chairlift experienced a mechanical failure just after 2:30 p.m. Mountain operations staff got the chairlift moving again, and all of the skiers were successfully evacuated within three hours. Skiers posted videos on social media showing staff members using ropes to help lower stranded skiers down to the ground. The Carpenter Express lift is scheduled to operate Monday. — Associated Press

Hogle Zoo giraffe dies

An elderly giraffe named Riley has died at the Hogle Zoo. The reticulated giraffe was 18 years old, while the average life-span for this subspecies is around 15 years. Riley was showing signs of aging and was being treated for arthritis. On Thursday, staff found him unable to stand on his own. Veterinary staff, along with the Salt Lake Fire Department and a crane service, were unable to get him back on his feet. Zoo officials said he died naturally later that day, though the exact cause of death is still unknown. According to a press release, Riley was the most outgoing of the herd and had sired six calves. — Elaine Clark

State

Protections for medical cannabis holders

Utah lawmakers could consider a bill during the upcoming general session that would offer clearer protections for medical cannabis holders. The legislation would make it illegal for employers to discriminate against people for having a medical cannabis prescription or card. Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley, said these protections already exist, but they’re not being followed. Thatcher said he was motivated to create clearer guidelines after he found out an Ogden firefighter alleged he was suspended for having a cannabis prescription card. Desiree Hennessy, executive director for Utah Patients Coalition, said she’s spoken to several firefighters who have also had to choose between their careers and health. She said medical marijuana should be treated like any other prescribed medicine. Read the full story.Ivana Martinez

Region/Nation

Las Vegas lawn restrictions

Even though it's winter, a severe and prolonged drought still has its grips on the Mountain West. That’s prompting officials in the Las Vegas area to push for a ban on new lawns as part of an effort to conserve water. The Southern Nevada Water Authority recently approved a resolution outlawing the installation of turf in any new developments — with an exception for schools and parks. The dwindling Colorado River supplies water and power to millions of people in Nevada and six other states in the West, including Utah. — Nate Hegyi, Mountain West News Bureau

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