Storms slam Northern Utah

Rains and winds cause flooding, outages and widespread damage

Published: Thursday, Aug. 3 2006 10:19 a.m. MDT

LaVar Allen, center, gets help cleaning up after a powerful fast-moving storm blew three of his trees onto his house and vehicle in Provo Tuesday.

Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News

"Big, nasty thunderstorms" whipped through northern Utah Tuesday, meteorologists said, causing flooding, widespread power outages, building and vehicle damage and toppled trees.

"Patio furniture, trampolines were down all over the place; a lot of really big trees down," said Len Randolph, meteorologist at KSL, describing the scene in East Millcreek.

Rocky Mountain Power estimated that 26,000 homes and businesses — most in the east-central part of Salt Lake Valley — were without electricity part of the day. Spokesman Dave Eskelsen said that despite hard work by repair crews, some residents would be without power into the night.

About 2,000 residences and businesses in Provo — mostly in southwest neighborhoods — may not have power restored until Thursday or Friday.

Extra police patrols were ordered for darkened neighborhoods until power is restored.

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In Provo, damage to Provo Municipal Airport could be the greatest expense: Seven planes were damaged, including five that overturned. Two helicopters were damaged. Thirteen buildings or hangars had moderate to severe damage, with three roofs blown off.

"Our airport looked like a war zone," said Provo Mayor Lewis Billings.

The control tower was running on generator power, but because other parts of the airport do not have power the airport was expected to close at dark Monday.

Floods surged through that city, electrical poles snapped and hit homes, and barns and roofs were damaged.

Fierce weather rolled into Utah from the west, according to Monica Traphagan, meteorologist with the National Weather Service forecast office on North Temple.

The storm dumped half an inch of rain in 15 minutes on Stansbury Park, Tooele County, said her colleague, NWS spokesman Eugene Van Cor. "That's a very significant rainfall rate."

At Grantsville, 0.4 inch fell in seven minutes. Magna was drenched with an inch of rain in 15 minutes.

"I got about 12 or so gallons of water in my basement bathroom," said Darin Christensen of Magna. "The water got so deep in the back yard that it flooded the window well and ran inside."

When thunderstorms slammed through, waves of rain lashed Salt Lake streets. At 800 South and State, the entire intersection was a pool that reached the bumpers of small cars, slowing traffic. Manhole covers were blown as torrents raced through storm drains.

Along Foothill Drive, traffic lights were out because of power failures along the east bench. A motorist driving near Foothill and Sunnyside Avenue called traffic a "huge mess."

Wind was clocked at 60 mph in Springville and at a point four miles east-southeast of Grantsville. However, radar reflections indicated gusts over Utah Lake reached 70 mph.

"You couldn't see out the windows," said Debra King, who lives on Provo's 600 South near 1920 West. "It was black. It was horrible."

Half of a neighbor's tree remained upright, but a huge clump of branches was splayed across the Kings' yard. The branches also crushed their back yard fence and the front and rear windshield of their car parked in the driveway.

Near Tiffanie Carter's home in Provo, a family's RV unit was sandwiched between the ground and a huge tree trunk, which crushed the vehicle's body.

Pine trees 30 or 40 feet tall were reported uprooted in the east Millcreek and north Olympus Cove areas, said Van Cor. Other trees, he said, were "snapped off because of high winds."

In East Millcreek, Meagan Black was preparing for another day teaching first grade at the Reid School when a window in her classroom blew open.

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