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Speed Week cleanup continues after flooding causes sudden cancellation

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Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

TOOELE — Everyone packed up and left the Bonneville Salt Flats after the cancellation of Speed Week, but flooding from the rain meant some stuff had to be left behind.

Cleanup crews now face trudging through a few inches to over a foot of water as items like tents and portable toilets sit surrounded by what looks like a lake.

Visitors usually flock to the Salt Flats from all over the world during Speed Week. Mike Jones, a volunteer for the Southern California Timing Association, usually greets every person who shows up along with his dog, Cowboy.

He said he meets many interesting people from all over the world, and this year people from around the globe could finally travel to Utah for the huge event for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

But his job the last couple of days has been ensuring everyone gets out safely.

Jones explained that they were all set up, the courses good to go, and everyone was ready when a rainstorm came in Friday night.

"Saturday night, another storm came in, and kind of took care of it. Then we were sitting in awe, kind of wondering," he said. "And as we looked, there was another storm coming in and we were just forced to cancel. Everything's underwater, and there's nothing to do but hurry and get everything out."

The Southern California Timing Association announced Sunday afternoon that weather forced it to cancel Speed Week 2022.

"Lot of people were kind of stunned when they learned what was going on, figuring out their plans, getting everything organized," he said.

Monday, people began their exit strategy but couldn't get all items out because of the water. By Tuesday, everyone was gone, and only portable toilets were left behind, along with debris like coolers, awnings, tarps, a generator, and dumpsters.

Two trucks trudged through the water to the area, with crew members wading through muck to clean out the portable toilets.

The whole ordeal was a huge disappointment to the racing community, for an event that Jones indicated hasn't been the same in the last couple of years. He explained that some people who flew in from other countries went into Salt Lake City to explore while others headed for Nevada or California.

Many people just turned around and went home.

"We were really looking forward to a normal year out here; however, Mother Nature had different plans," Jones said.

He stuck around until Tuesday afternoon, making sure everyone was out and had what they needed. Jones said some racers continued to show up, having not seen the association's Facebook post about the cancellation. He had to be the bearer of bad news.

The stuff still out there, the association posted, will be considered trash and thrown in the dumpsters. Jones indicated they're working to remove the portable toilets and dumpsters.

Jones and Cowboy ended up being the last to leave Speed Week 2022, but he knows they'll be back to the Bonneville Salt Flats.

"It's just a great time," he said, of the annual event. "It's sad that it was washed away from us this year, but you know, we'll live to do it another day."


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Lauren Steinbrecher
Lauren Steinbrecher is an Emmy award-winning reporter and multimedia journalist who joined KSL in December 2021.


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