A rare tornado, hail showers, wet snow, high winds and dramatic thunder highlighted a Thursday night-early Friday weather potpourri that rumbled through the Wasatch Front, leaving power outages, accidents and icy roads in its wake.
A South Salt Lake man was in critical condition at LDS Hospital Friday morning, after his car slid off I-15 near the Salt Lake-Utah County line about 7 a.m.Jeffery L. Apple, 21, 3135 S. Second East, was driving southbound when he slid off the right side of the road, through a fence down the embankment where his small grocery delivery truck rolled over once and landed on the frontage road, said Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Mike Cowdell.
Apple was transported by ambulance to the Draper crossroads, as the emergency helicopter was unable to land at the Point of the Mountain. He was then taken to the hospital, where he was treated for head and internal injuries, a spokeswoman said.
The interstate was closed from American Fork to the Point of the Mountain for about an hour and a half, according to Utah Highway Patrol dispatcher Barbara Barton, who said visibility was severly limited in Utah County. Also closed was U-92 from I-15 to Alpine.
Davis and Weber counties appeared to be the "hole in the doughnut" in Friday's storm, with only a few minor accidents and slideoffs reported by the police agencies in the counties.
Fender-bender accidents kept police dispatchers busy through the morning commute, as they had during Thursday evening drive time.
"This storm had all the ingredients of a major March storm: tropical moisture, cold air and real good surface development," said Bill Alder, meteorologist in charge of the Salt Lake office of the National Weather Service.
Alder said a tornado that was reported at 6:15 p.m. Thursday at 3699 South and 75th West was only the second March twister in Utah in nearly 40 years. The twister tore a swamp cooler off a roof, tossed a trampoline into a tree, damaged a shed and left some broken windows in its wake.
The storm laced two to four inches of snow onto the Salt Lake Valley floor, and dumped six to eight inches on the benches. Ski resorts reported new snow dumps of one foot to a foot and a half.
Hailstones, pea-sized and bigger, pummeled Salt Lake, Davis and Utah Counties between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. Thursday. Nearly an inch of hail was reported standing on the ground at the Salt Lake International Airport, and heavy hail showers battered the Sugar House and University of Utah neighborhoods.
Wind blew up to 55 miles per hour in Cedar City and 89 miles per hour at the top of Snowbird's Hidden Peak.
The storm front was preceded by a transitional squall _ which marked the boundary from warm air to somewhat colder air _ which blew in the thunderstorms, strong winds, frequent lightning, hail and the tornado.
In West Jordan, a bolt of lightning Thursday evening hit an antenna atop police offices and knocked out computers and telephone lines for several hours. Power was also knocked out for a time in the Weather Service offices at the Salt Lake airport. "Even the weatherman isn't protected from Mother Nature," Alder said.
A rare electrical storm left Orem without power for about an hour and a half starting at 7 p.m. Thursday when lightning struck a transformer at Utah Power & Light Co.'s Hale Plant at the mouth of Provo Canyon.
According to an Orem police spokesman, once the transformer was hit, oil inside caught fire and spread to the ground around the transformer. Four fire engines, two from Provo and two from Orem, responded to the call. Orem Police Sgt. Rex Skinner said no buildings were in danger and the fire was controlled almost immediately.
The Utah County sheriff's department also reported power outages in Payson and Spanish Fork.
The barometric pressure was reported at a low of 29.07 inches, near the record low of 29.01 recorded in December 1982, Alder said.
Utah experienced the heart of the storm Friday morning, but a weather service's winter storm warning for the western valleys and mountains remained in affect.
Alder said residents could expect more cold temperatures Saturday. "This touch of winter is basically going to be short-lived."
Temperatures are predicted to creep back into the upper 40s by Sunday, and into the low 50s early next week.