SALT LAKE CITY — Hurricane-level winds blew into the state Tuesday leading to at least one fatality, power outages, downed trees and wind damage throughout northern Utah. After a lull in the winds Tuesday afternoon, gusts picked up back later in the evening and were expected to continue into Wednesday morning.
The National Weather Service officially reported a wind gust of 99 mph in Farmington and unofficial reports at the University of Utah had the gusts as high as 112 mph. The Salt Lake City International Airport experienced gusts up to 70 mph.
More than one hundred thousand Utahns lost power from the strong winds and schools throughout the area were shut down.
Ongoing wind and weather updates will be posted below. If you're using a mobile device and can't see the updates, click on this link.
More areas impacted in Tuesday's windstorm than in 2011
Tuesday's storm is worse than 2011's infamous windstorm in terms of scope of damage, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said at an afternoon press conference.
Between toppled semitrucks, uprooted trees, downed power lines and flying debris, the Wasatch Front has been hit hard by hurricane-force winds since early Tuesday morning.
“It’s been an interesting day here in the state of Utah,” he continued, noting extensive damage has been seen in Salt Lake, Davis, Cache and Box Elder counties and pretty much every area north of Utah County.
At least one fatality in the windstorm was reported at an Intermountain facility, spokesperson Jess Gomez confirmed. Further details on injuries weren’t immediately available, but Cox noted some drivers of blown-over trucks were injured and at least one individual was being treated at a hospital for injuries relating to a tree crashing into a home.
Another wind storm is expected to develop tonight with very strong gusts. Please be patient with your plans to remove debris.— Utah Division of Emergency Management (Utah DEM) (@UtahEmergency) September 8, 2020
Latest from @RMP_Utah: It could be 48-72 hours before power is fully restored.
Crews are working very hard. Remember to stay away from downed power lines
Cleanup can wait
State and local government officials urged residents to stay indoors as high winds hit the Wasatch Front and are expected to pick back up in the evening.
Cleaning up the debris will be an involved effort, Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson said, but it’s important to prioritize safety.
Any non-urgent debris can be left as is. Debris impacting roadways and posing a safety threat can and should be addressed, but most instances can wait until after the storm passes — which is expected sometime Wednesday morning after 9 a.m.
“We can fix property damage but we worry about the safety,” Cox said.
Avoid any and all downed power lines
High winds knocked out power for hundreds of thousands of Utahns on Tuesday afternoon and some power lines were taken down altogether.
Officials emphasized the importance of avoiding downed power lines, noting that even if the line doesn’t look live, it can become re-energized at any time.
Individuals should remain vigilant in staying away from the dangerous hazard. Salt Lake County Emergency Manager Clint Mecham noted that some debris, like toppled trees, can sometimes block the view of a downed power line thus making it difficult to see and easy to get closer to.
Power can travel through the ground so it’s important to stay far away from downed lines as individuals don’t necessarily need to be close to a line for it to cause a safety concern.
People should also keep an eye on pets, so they don’t accidentally discover a downed power line.
Salt Lake County sets up 4 warming centers
In conjunction with the Red Cross, Salt Lake County has set up four warming centers that will be up and running by Tuesday evening. The centers will remain open from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m., according to West Valley officials.
The centers are located at:
- Northwest Recreation Center at 125 W. Clark Ave. in Salt Lake City
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints building at 808 E. Roosevelt Ave. in Salt Lake City
- Millcreek Community Center at 2266 E. Evergreen Ave., in Millcreek
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stake center at 3650 W. 4400 South in West Valley City
- The centers will live up to their name by providing a warm place for people to wait out the unseasonably cold temperatures during power outages.
Additionally, officials reminded Utahns to check in on neighbors and offer help during outages.
“This is Utah — we help our neighbors,” Mecham said.
Lows tonight will be more typical of what we see in mid to late October. We are expecting widespread frost down to most valleys, & some valleys will see hard freeze conditions. Active Hard Freeze Warnings are indicated in purple. Be ready for freezing temperatures! #utwx#wywxpic.twitter.com/yYMfVPcTry— NWS Salt Lake City (@NWSSaltLakeCity) September 8, 2020
Rocky Mountain Power working around the clock to get power back
Rocky Mountain Power is working hard to get power back to Utahns and the other 5 states the utility serves, which have also been hit by extreme weather, spokesperson Spencer Hall said.
“We’re ready to make these repairs,” Hall said, but the sheer volume has slowed the process.
Crews will get to each outage and power will be restored within the coming days.
Homes along the east bench throughout the Wasatch Front have been hit the hardest and those areas could experience outages ranging from 42-72 hours.
Patience is much appreciated, Hall added.
“We’re going to get the power back on as soon as we can,” he said.
Our crews working as safely and quickly as possible to restore power. pic.twitter.com/rUX2Swme5u— Rocky Mountain Power UT (@RMP_Utah) September 8, 2020
Some schools closing Wednesday amid wind-related damage, power outages
The following schools and districts will be closed Wednesday:
- Layton Christian Academy
- Davis School District
- Salt Lake City School District
- Bonneville High School
- South Ogden Junior High
- T.H. Bell Junior High
- Burch Creek Elementary
- H. Guy Child Elementary
- Riverdale Elementary
- Roosevelt Elementary
- Uintah Elementary
- Washington Terrace Elementary
Cities, counties declare state of emergency in response to wind-related damages
The following cities declared a state of emergency in response to the damages caused by the storm:
- South Salt Lake
- Salt Lake City
Winds will die down before picking back up
Don’t let the slower winds fool you — Tuesday evening will bring strong gusts.
Gusts are expected to die down Tuesday afternoon before picking back up in the evening, experts predicted.
Residents are asked to stay indoors as much as possible during the extreme weather.
Watch the full press conference giving updates on Tuesday's windstorm below.
Contributing: Lauren Bennett, KSL.com