A fairly isolated electrical storm over the Salt Lake area early Tuesday morning caused power outages, a fire in an office building - and nearly fried a Deseret News assistant city editor out for a morning run.
William J. Alder, meteorologist in charge of the Salt Lake office of the National Weather Service at the Salt Lake International Airport, said data from a Bureau of Land Management lightning detection system shows there were about 100 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes between 4:15 and 5:15 a.m. The strikes were in Davis, Weber and Salt Lake counties, and along the Wasatch range.Allen Kam, an observer at the National Weather Service at the airport, said the lightning moved from southwest to northeast.
No fatalities have occurred this summer from lightning strikes in Utah, but five people have been injured. At least one of the injured persons, a 5-year-old Emery County boy, remains hospitalized at Primary Children's Medical Center.
But even near-misses can be hair-raising - literally. Brett DelPorto, an assistant city editor at the Deseret News, was running about 4 a.m. in the vicinity of 21st South and 17th East when lightning struck the area.
One lightning bolt appeared to "strike only about 20 feet away," DelPorto recalled. "Power lines were crackling, and all the street lights went out for two or three minutes. I saw lightning hit something, probably a power line. I heard a sizzling, crackling sound and then thunder all around. My hair was standing up, either from electricity or adrenalin."
The electrical storm caused a fire at a renovated office building at 331 S. Rio Grande St. and hit a pole outside a Utah Power & Light Co. substation at 450 S. Third West at 3:49 a.m.
Lightning struck the unused elevator shaft of the office building about 5 a.m. Tuesday and started a fire that was so intense it disintegrated three sides of the brick shaft.
The fire, which caused an estimated $25,000 to $30,000 in damage to the three-story Carpenter Building, also melted plastic sprinkler pipes and the wiring of the building's alarm system.
"The brick and everything are just like powder, it was so hot," said operating manager Keri Granger.
No one was in the building at the time of the lightning strike, and the 10-foot-by-10-foot elevator shaft had been replaced with a modern elevator when the building was renovated several years ago.
A third-floor office scheduled to be leased in September lost a portion of its ceiling and was damaged by fire and water. Offices on the floors below leased by W.B. Design, the Easter Seal Society and Golden Dawn Computer Systems sustained water damage.
The lightning strike on the pole caused a couple of circuits that feed the downtown area to trip out. Two substations that feed the downtown area were affected, according to Dave Mead, Utah Power & Light Co. public relations manager.
"Generally, parts of the downtown area were without power for up to 2 hours and 15 minutes. All power was on by 6 a.m. and some of it was on by about 5 a.m.," Mead said.
Alder said Monday was the first day since June 14 that no weather observation station reported a maximum temperature of 100 degrees or more.
However, it was a sizzling 99 at Moab and Hanksville and 94 at the Salt Lake International Airport.
The temperature is expected to be in the upper 80s and lower 90s in the Salt Lake area during the next two days. In southern Utah the mercury should be in the 90s to near 100 degrees, Alder said.
By Wednesday and toward the end of the week, there should be more thundershower activity along the Wasatch Front, the meteorologist said.
Bountiful received .05 of an inch of precipitation from the Tuesday morning storm.