The date is Jan. 2, 2006, and it has been raining in Davis County for more than four hours. However, Salt Lake City is still dry and remained so until late morning. Why this significant difference in weather?

According to Mark Eubank, KSL's chief meteorologist and Bountiful resident for more than three decades, weather differences between the two counties can be surprising.

"The Salt Lake Valley has a 'rain shadow,' " Eubank said.

This means the Oquirrh Mountains are believed to somehow shield Salt Lake County from many storms as south winds blow.

Even some snowstorms that plaster Davis County might only create a skiff of snow in downtown Salt Lake City.

Davis County weather is unusual, to some degree, and Eubank said that's true for just about everywhere in Utah. If the state were flat, without mountains, its weather would be uniform. However, every little valley has its own differences, thanks to the local mountains.

The Great Salt Lake is another variable, and its warm waters in winter can be as effective as a mountain in creating weather.

Salt Lake and Davis counties have different "lake effects" too.

Eubank said Beck Street, the narrow corridor at the north end of Salt Lake County before Davis territory begins, is a sort of "convergence zone," where weather can change one way or other.

The hot springs in that area, combined with the oil refineries there, can also affect weather. Fog sometimes is worse on Beck Street than any other location in that area.

Cloud seeding during fogged-in days at the Salt Lake International Airport can also put light snow on the ground in North Salt Lake and the Beck Street area when it exists nowhere else along the Wasatch Front.

Eubank said he chose to live on the east bench in Bountiful because of its "active, fun weather."

He said the Bountiful bench receives about 28 inches of water a year — or about three times the statewide average. That's more moisture in a given year than San Francisco, which averages 20.4 inches.

Utah may be mostly a desert, but Bountiful's bench doesn't act that way.

The 31-year average for annual snowfall at Eubank's house is 124 inches. That compares to just 27.46 inches a year at the Salt Lake City International Airport, about seven miles away. Admittedly, Eubank's house is 4,990 feet above sea level, or some 600-plus feet above the valley floor, but that 124 inches would be coveted by many ski resorts outside Utah.

Bountiful is also a place where the mountains indent to the east to form a cove, of sorts, and Eubank said that factor may also intensify snowfall in that area.

High-velocity east winds are also another special characteristic of Davis County's weather. Davis can have stronger east winds than other portions of the Wasatch Front.

"Davis County is in the heart of the canyon winds," Eubank said, explaining that equals winds strong enough to blow over trains, or rip off roofs.

That's because of the usual way a high pressure sets up in western Wyoming and the winds get funneled strongest through Davis County.

East canyon winds have been clocked as high as 120 mph in Davis County.

Eubank also admits Davis County is now overdue for an east canyon wind episode. They used to occur on average every 18 months — usually in the spring or fall — but we have not suffered any since November 2003 and the last time 100 mph winds hit the valleys of Davis County was back in 1988.

With much more population and structures in Davis County 18 years later, how will all that react to century force winds?

"East winds have come from time to time (in Davis County) ever since the people can remember, doing much damage to trees and roofs," states the history book, "East of Antelope Island," published by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers. The first recorded incident of strong east winds comes from a diary of Daniel A. Miller, one of the earliest settlers in Farmington.

He recorded that the very first day his family arrived in the area — the fall of 1848 — there was a heavy east wind.

Early settlers created inventive ways to try to secure their roofs from these winds, but nothing seemed foolproof. One early Kaysville resident, John R. Barnes, made the east walls of his home four bricks thick to ward off canyon wind damage.

Prominent settler George D. Watt made a special windstorm shelter for his family, but his home's roof still blew off.

A strong east wind in the summer of 1854 actually performed a miracle. The canyon winds saved the day by blowing hordes of invading grasshoppers away from Davis County crops and into the Great Salt Lake, where they perished.

Hurricane-force east winds struck at least twice in the early 1860s, and the roof on the East Bountiful LDS Church had to be replaced twice.

After one such east wind, the Tuttle brothers from Bountiful jokingly inquired on Antelope Island if any missing hats had been found.

The east winds were a very feared and dreaded occurrence, especially in Farmington. It was canyon winds and water shortages that plagued many early Davis settlers the most.

Perhaps the saddest east wind incident took place in February 1864 when Elizabeth Rigby of south Farmington and her 18-month-old son, John, froze to death after being pinned against a fence by hurricane force canyon winds. Husband John Rigby had left his family to travel to Salt Lake City for medicine. Upon returning, he not only discovered the two deaths, but the home's roof was also blown off, and 200 sheep, six horses, 10 cows and four pigs perished because of downed buildings and the frigid winds.

During a Nov. 9, 1864, visit to Farmington with Wilford Woodruff when the canyon winds were blowing, LDS Church President Brigham Young rebuked the winds in the name of the Lord.

Woodruff's diary reports that east winds did decrease substantially for some years afterward, perhaps as long as the late 1890s.

Regarding another wind nightmare — tornadoes — Davis County ranks second in Utah behind Salt Lake County, by a 15-11 margin, in records going back to 1980.

If there's one single trend in Davis weather, it is higher temperatures.

"It has gotten warmer," Eubank said.

Eubank's home on the Bountiful bench had never recorded a single 100 degree or higher temperature summer day until one day in July 2002.

Comment on this story

Overall temperature averages are also showing a warming trend and the warm spell this winter (minus the extra cold period before Christmas) could also be a part of this effect.

Eubank has compiled a list of Davis County weather records, and he's confident they are likely accurate for most of the county.


E-mail: lynn@desnews.com