updated 5/11/2005 10:40:58 PM ET 2005-05-12T02:40:58

Snow and rain fell across Wyoming and Utah Wednesday, unleashing rock slides and flooding at lower elevations while prompting a mountain resort to fire up its lifts for extra skiing.

The potent spring storm dropped several inches of rain on northern Wyoming and nearly 2 feet of snow in the mountains, renewing hopes the state could emerge from a yearslong drought that has devastated rangeland grasses.

“We’re taking a jackhammer to that drought the last few days,” said Jim Fahey, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Riverton.

In Utah, up to 4 inches of snow mixed with rain fell on the Salt Lake Valley, slowing rush-hour traffic. Cool temperatures dropped the snow line to about 5,000 feet in elevation, which covers much of Utah.

The storm was welcomed by Snowbird, which will be running its lifts Thursday and Friday instead of just opening on weekends through May 29.

Snowbird, the only Utah ski resort still operating this late in the season, says it’s taking advantage of a storm expected to drop 19-25 inches of snow.

U.S. 14 on the west side of the Big Horn Mountains of north-central Wyoming was closed because of rock slides, a patrol dispatcher said.

Sandbags in Sheridan
National Guard troops helped fill sandbags in Sheridan, Wyo., where officials declared a state of emergency. About 4,000 bags were placed along homes adjacent to Big Goose and Little Goose creeks.

In Utah County south of Salt Lake City, a rain-soaked foothill above Cedar Hills was on the move again, nearly two weeks after first threatening townhouses on a steep slope of the western Wasatch Front.

Part of the slide moved 11 inches in 24 hours, said Cedar Hills Councilman Jim Perry.

The four-unit townhouse building was evacuated April 28 after part of the foothill collapsed at the site of an old landslide and piled mud against the foundation.

A separate storm rumbled through northern Illinois Wednesday morning, leaving tens of thousands of residents without power until the afternoon and canceling hundreds of flights at O’Hare International Airport.

A Chicago man suffered burns and internal injuries after he apparently was struck by lightning, police spokesman Sgt. Robert Cargie said. The man was in stable condition at a hospital, Cargie said.

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