Severe Windstorm Causes Power Outages Across Valley, Prompts U to Cancel Classes

Fallen+trees+and+debris+strewn+across+Salt+Lake+City%27s+East+Central+neighborhood+on+Tuesday%2C+Sept.+8%2C+2020+after+a+powerful+windstorm.+Some+streets+are+completely+blocked+and+cars+crushed.+%28Photo+by+Jack+Gambassi+%7C+The+Daily+Utah+Chronicle%29

Jack Gambassi

Fallen trees and debris strewn across Salt Lake City's East Central neighborhood on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020 after a powerful windstorm. Some streets are completely blocked and cars crushed. (Photo by Jack Gambassi | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Alexis Perno and Megan McKellar

 

 

Tuesday, Sept. 8, a windstorm caused extensive power outages throughout Salt Lake City and along the Wasatch Front. Damage included fallen trees and limbs, minor campus dorm damage and downed power lines. 

The University of Utah canceled classes for the day at around 9 a.m. as students on campus experienced power outages in dorms and other buildings.

On-campus student services such as dining halls and the Marriott Library were affected. The library closed at noon, and U dining options adopted emergency hours. Kahlert Village’s Urban Bytes, Lassonde Studios’ Miller Cafe and the Peterson Heritage Center remained open, but the Honors Market, Crimson Corner and Shakes Smart are closed until power returns. 

The highest reported wind gust was 112 mph on campus, and President’s Circle saw several trees down. 

As of 5:30 p.m., 2683 outages in Utah affecting 161220 customers in Utah were reported by Rocky Mountain Power. 

A 10:30 a.m. news release by the Utah Division of Emergency Management reported that the State Emergency Operation Center was activated to “support local-level efforts” and “mitigate additional damage.” DEM community support liaisons reported damage to State EOC members throughout the threat. 

“Anyone experiencing damage is cautioned to delay damage and debris clean up until it is safe to do so,” the news release read. “Check on the wellbeing of family and neighbors. Ensure your own safety before rendering assistance. Remember and encourage others to stay home, stay indoors, and stay safe during the active threat of the high wind storm.”

Salt Lake City police officers were also mobilized to secure traffic areas affected by the storm. 

“We’re just doing our part and we’re hoping that the public stays safe and doesn’t get injured, pays attention and follows the rules of the road,” said a representative from the Salt Lake City Police Department.

The University of Utah Campus after the morning windstorm on September 8th, 2020. (Photo by Eric Jensen | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

In a press release held by Salt Lake County at 3:00 p.m., Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson reviewed the damage throughout the county and provided an update about the damage control efforts. 

“Salt Lake City has declared an emergency, and we are in process right now of reviewing the need in each community. The county itself will assess over the next few hours whether or not we will follow with a declared emergency,” Wilson said.  

Clint Mecham, Salt Lake County Emergency Manager, offered further clarification regarding the current storm situation. 

“This is an ongoing event. I can’t stress that enough. We still are under a wind advisory until tomorrow morning, and we are still expecting those winds as high as 60 or 70 miles an hour. These are potentially hurricane-force winds. So again, please understand that this event is not over even though the wind may die for a short period of time,” Mecham said. 

All who spoke during the press release emphasized the need for people to exercise extreme caution around downed power lines and trees. 

“These lines can become re-energized at any time, especially as the crews try to reestablish power service to everybody. … The power can actually travel through the ground, so you don’t actually have to come in physical contact with the power line itself for this to be a hazard to you. These lines can be hidden within the debris, the downed trees and other debris that might be lying around,” Mecham said. 

According to Spencer Hall, a representative from Rocky Mountain Power, some power outages could extend as far as 48 to 72 hours.  

“We want everyone to call in. So if you can text in, call, or get the Rocky Mountain power app, that lets us know where we need to go next,” Hall said. 

The areas closest to the mountains along the East Bench were among the areas impacted the most, according to Hall. 

Utah Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox addressed the current injury count but doesn’t have a full report. 

“There were some injuries with truck drivers whose trucks overturned, mostly minor, but there were certainly some there. We did have report of one home where a person was injured and is in the hospital right now. … [There have been] some broken glass injuries. That’s what we have so far, but those are being collected by the counties and will be sent to the state,” Cox said. 

The county is also working on providing “warming centers” for community members who have no access to power, or who need shelter, especially as temperatures will drop tonight and tomorrow. These warming centers will be operated in conjunction with the American Red Cross and other partners. Medical devices can be powered at these warming centers. 

Warming centers will be available at the following locations:  

  • Northwest Recreation Center in Salt Lake City (125 W Clark Ave) 
  • LDS Church Building in Salt Lake City (808 E Roosevelt Ave) 
  • Millcreek Community Center (2266 E Evergreen Ave) 
  • LDS Church Building in West Valley City (3650 W 4400 S) 

Information regarding the time these warming centers will be available will be provided later today by Salt Lake County. 

Current updates on the outages can be found at Rocky Mountain Power’s website. To report a power outage, call 877-508-5088. DEM’s social media can be monitored on their Facebook page and Twitter page.

U classes will resume on Wednesday, Sept. 9. An announcement sent out to all students encouraged those coming to campus on Wednesday to plan extra time for their commute and delays.

It also advised against standing underneath and near trees. University crews are working to clean debris across campus currently.

As of 5:15 p.m., students in Chapel Glen, Gateway Heights, Benchmark Plaza, Shoreline Ridge, Officers Circle and Sage Point are going on 10 hours without power. The Peterson Heritage Center is dealing with power outages as well.

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