Skies change lightning fast — with sheets of rain

But weather service says rainfall totals weren't impressive

Published: Saturday, June 10 2006 12:00 a.m. MDT

Commuters endure a thunderstorm in Salt Lake City on Friday. Not much rain actually fell — but the wind gusted strongly.

Laura Seitz, Deseret Morning News

Enlarge photo»

The weather changed lightning fast Friday as unusually warm temperatures disappeared behind blankets of gray clouds and sheets of rain. However, rain totals weren't that impressive, according to the National Weather Service.

"It was the winds that surprised us," said Peter Wilensky, NWS lead forecaster. He said winds reached 74 mph on the Great Salt Lake Friday. From Herriman to the Salt Lake City International Airport, gusts up to 50 mph were reported.

Thunderstorms still made their presence known, dropping more than an inch of rain on parts of the state, while lightning took down trees and even sent one boy to the hospital.

Most of the day was marked with a flash flood watch along the Wasatch range, meaning that excess water could send mountain mud rushing down without notice. However, Wilensky said no flooding was reported.

"Weather like this isn't that uncommon this time of year," Wilensky said. "We'd call this a late-spring cold front and the only unusual thing is the tropical moisture." The storms from Mexico, he said, normally come in late July or August.

Rain left the Logan River lapping at its banks but not overflowing, and other runoff was kept at bay, while only minimal amounts of moisture accumulated.

Reports of a funnel cloud forming in the skies above Bountiful came in, as well as trees being split in half by electric charges darting from the sky.

One specific charge left a large tree threatening to fall on a Salt Lake apartment building on 2100 South near 1200 East. Forest Service officials were called in to assess the damage.

The storms are also believed to have caused a small plane to crash in Utah County and the morning search and rescue effort was hindered by the conditions.

Salt Lake County Sheriff's Sgt. Jim Winder said a 10-year-old boy may have been hit or was startled by "one huge bolt" that hit the valley floor in Kearns at about 6 p.m.

"His parents told him to close the door and when he was out there, he was jolted by the bolt," he said. The boy was conscious and alert and had no burns on his skin, but as a precaution was taken to the hospital for an evaluation.

Other than "buckets of rain," Winder said, the weather was just keeping people indoors.

The storms weren't much of a surprise, however, as they continued from Thursday. Big Cottonwood Canyon was temporarily closed by a mud- and rock-slide and in some places, more than a half inch of rain fell in just 20 minutes, NWS reported. Friday, U.S. 6 in Utah County was temporarily shut down by weather-related traffic accidents, but Utah Highway Patrol reported travel conditions in general not far from the usual, just congested and slow-moving.

"(Friday's) rain was more insignificant," Wilensky said. He said the state should dry out today, with only remnants of scattered storms left hanging over the mountains. Temperatures should reach into the mid-80s by tomorrow and warm, summer temperatures will be back on cue.


E-mail: wleonard@desnews.com

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