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One year after devastating Utah windstorm, Salt Lake City mayor urges preparedness

Trees that were damaged by high winds on the grounds of the Capitol in Salt Lake City are pictured on Sept. 8, 2020. One year later, Salt Lake City's mayor is urging people to be prepared for future natural disasters.

Trees that were damaged by high winds on the grounds of the Capitol in Salt Lake City are pictured on Sept. 8, 2020. One year later, Salt Lake City's mayor is urging people to be prepared for future natural disasters. (Jeffrey D. Allred, KSL)


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SALT LAKE CITY — A year after a devastating windstorm left thousands of households without power and toppled thousands of trees across the Wasatch Front, Salt Lake City's mayor is urging people to be prepared for future natural disasters.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall declared September as Preparedness Month on Wednesday on the one-year anniversary of the windstorm.

"It's Preparedness Month, and preparing now for potential natural disasters and other emergencies doesn't have to be daunting," Mendenhall said in a tweet.

She urged people to start by making an emergency preparedness plan for them and their families.

The Sept. 8, 2020, storm, which was formally referred to as a downslope wind event, caused wind gusts of up to 99 miles per hour. A 61-year-old man died in South Salt Lake after a wind gust knocked him over, causing him to hit his head.

The storm also damaged over 3,000 trees in Salt Lake City, according to the city's public lands division. At least 95,000 homes across the northern Wasatch Front were left without power — some for several days, Rocky Mountain Power said.

Then-Utah Gov. Gary Herbert declared a state of emergency for the state in the days following the storm. Mayors of several Wasatch Front cities did the same.

The complex event was a combination of a subtle mix of weather phenomena, paired with Utah's mountainous terrain, that created conditions allowing for gusts of 60 miles per hour or more across the region, according to the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City.

A cold, dense air mass moved in from Canada and set up over the northeast part of Utah, according to the weather service. An early season cold front then moved into the Wasatch Front, setting up a low-pressure system in the valleys of Salt Lake, Davis and Weber counties.

Utah's geography added the final piece — when the colder, denser air swept over the mountains from the east, it cascaded down the slopes and through the canyons to create the dramatic wind gusts, according to the weather service. The air was forced to accelerate down the slopes, and the worst gusts were present in areas where the foothills meet the valleys.

National Weather Service lead meteorologist Christine Kruse told KSL NewsRadio that downslope wind events are possible again this year, but it's extremely unlikely that they'll be as strong as last year's storm. This year's weather patterns have so far been different than last year and haven't included any early season cold fronts, she said.

"You can see those ingredients sometimes two, three, even four days out," Kruse said. "You can start to say 'there's a threat of this coming, get prepared.'"

People are urged to make an emergency preparedness plan and build a survival kit, according to Salt Lake City Emergency Management. People should also be informed and get involved. More information is available at bereadyslc.com and beready.utah.gov.

Contributing: Nick Wyatt, KSL NewsRadio and Carter Williams, KSL.com

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