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Steve Griffin, KSL, File

Preliminary estimates show $9 million in damage from September windstorm in Utah

By Graham Dudley, KSL.com | Posted - Nov. 20, 2020 at 5:43 p.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Division of Emergency Management has verified nearly $9 million in damages directly related to the Sept. 8 windstorm that ripped through northern Utah, including over $7 million spent on debris removal alone.

Those numbers come from a Joint Preliminary Damage Assessment, or PDA, the agency conducted with local officials, emergency managers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Janna Wilkinson, Division of Emergency Management mitigation and recovery manager, said the PDA is used to assess damage totals and determine if they meet thresholds for a presidential disaster declaration.

"It is important to note that the PDA verified damage total is not the total damage or recovery cost for the disaster," Wilkinson said in an email to KSL.com, "just the amount that was able to be reviewed and verified within the 30-day period after the disaster" to justify the disaster declaration request. "It will be some time before we know the actual complete damage amounts and recovery costs."

According to Wilkinson, the state threshold for public assistance for damages is currently $4,284,022; but the state was able to verify $8,932,990 in damages, "far exceeding the threshold."

That amount does not take into account damages covered by insurance or damages to private property, businesses or homes, as they do not count toward the threshold.

"It was initially estimated that there may be up to $20 million in damages statewide," Wilkinson said.


It is important to note that the PDA verified damage total is not the total damage or recovery cost for the disaster, just the amount that was able to be reviewed and verified within the 30-day period after the disaster.

–Janna Wilkinson, Division of Emergency Management mitigation and recovery manager


The $9 million figure was reached by having local officials and emergency managers provide "photos, invoices, contracts and damage estimates to show the damages."

Wilkinson said there was "just over" $7 million from debris clearance and the rest was split between "emergency protective measures and road, building and utility system damages."

Salt Lake, Davis, Morgan and Weber counties met the damage threshold to be included in the disaster declaration request. According to the Division of Emergency Management, Gov. Gary Herbert requested a presidential disaster declaration on Oct. 7; however, as of Friday, that request has not been approved.

The FEMA website says Utah has had federally declared disasters this year for the COVID-19 pandemic, the Magna earthquake, the Ether Hollow Fire, the Veyo West Fire, the Knolls Fire and the Canal Fire.

The March Magna 5.7 earthquake was estimated to have caused $70 million in public infrastructure damage.

A FEMA spokesman told KSL.com the windstorm disaster declaration request "is still currently in the determination process."

"That means it is currently under consideration and there is no current timeline when a decision will be made," he said.

"Sometimes it can take a while for a Presidential Declaration to come through, especially if it is a smaller event," Wilkinson said. "The earthquake earlier this year took six weeks from request to declaration. With the current election season ongoing, and other events nationwide, only the larger more life threatening events have been declared in recent weeks/months."

Once the request reaches the president's office, she said, the Division of Emergency Management and the FEMA regional office "have no insight into if or when the disaster request will be approved."

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