Heavy winds cause major problems along Wasatch Front

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A large storm wreaked havoc on parts of the valley Sunday, downing power lines, knocking out trees and shutting down roads.

It was a crazy afternoon along much of the Wasatch Front. Downed power lines started some small fires and residents reported seeing a tornado of dust in the Rose Park area.

So many people were calling Rocky Mountain Power to report outages that even police dispatchers couldn't get through. At one point the company reported 12,000 customers without power from West Valley City to Ogden.

The largest areas impacted were Farmington and Riverdale. As of 9:30, Rocky Mountain reported just 7,300 customers still without power.

High winds, some as strong as 75 miles per hour, blew down eight power and data lines on Interstate 80. Most of the lines fell across the road, but one data line was draped across a semi truck.

I'm getting nervous. I am getting a little nervous and fearful.

–Christine Dixon

"We've had to send all the traffic that got stuck here back to the on-ramps and get them rerouted," said Sgt. Randall Akers with the Utah Highway Patrol.

The portion of the freeway near Salt Lake International Airport was closed in both directions and crews expect to keep the road closed for most of the night. As a result, troopers are diverting traffic down Wright Brothers Drive and 5600 West.

UDOT has closed Legacy Highway in both directions from Parrish Lane in Centerville through the northern junction with Interstate 15 in Farmington due to downed lines. Traffic from southbound U.S. 89 is being diverted to southbound I-15 at Park Lane, while the southbound Legacy Parkway ramp from I-15 and from Park Lane in Farmington are closed.

A tree branch broke off and fell across F Street near South Temple in Salt Lake City, blocking traffic there. In Sandy, wind peeled the roof off a five-unit apartment complex.

Then I saw this dumpster, must have got hit by one of the lightning strikes, and it was on fire.

–Tony Claudio

"Our neighbor came out from there and said the roof came down, the roof came out," said resident Amilda Ulbano.

The crumpled mass of roofing material dragged down power lines, briefly starting a small fire and forcing residents out.

In northwestern Salt Lake City, some kind of wild winds whipped through a courtyard of the City Park Apartments at 780 N. 900 West. Three big trees went down, a dumpster caught fire and many residents figured they'd been grazed by a tornado.

"Then I saw this Dumpster, must have got hit by one of the lightning strikes, and it was on fire," said Salt Lake City resident Tony Claudio.

On the south side of the valley, residents of at least one neighborhood were worried about a flood. Draper's Corner Canyon area was hit by a storm Thursday that dumped an enormous amount of water in a short period of time. That triggered debris flows from a 2-year-old wildfire burn area.

In anticipation of more storm trouble Sunday, Draper City delivered sandbags to worried homeowners who asked for it.

"I'm getting nervous," said resident Christine Dixon. "I am getting a little nervous and fearful."

Residents were able to breathe a bit easier, thanks to a report from the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City.

"I got my first phone call from the weather service about 4:30 today just letting us know there was a storm on the way," said Draper City spokeswoman Maridene Hancock. "I got off the phone with them a few minutes ago and they said the storm is moving very fast but it's producing a lot of wind and not a lot of water. We are feeling relieved."

The storms caused a number of flight delays at Salt Lake International Airport. Members of one family said they were kept waiting several hours for an exchange student from Thailand.

"It's been frustrating because there hasn't been much information given to us on what's going on," said Tim Booth.

Ten flights were rerouted due to the winds.

Again, both I-80 and Legacy Parkway will likely remain closed to traffic throughout the night.

E-mail: hollenhorst@ksl.com


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