Tornado touches down in Washington Terrace, damaging homes

Thursday , September 22, 2016 - 4:27 PM11 comments

Standard-Examiner Staff

WATCH: Community shares videos of tornado

FRIDAY MORNING UPDATE: 6,700 still without power in Northern Utah as of 8 a.m. Friday. Read more

FRIDAY TORNADO UPDATES: Get up-to-date information about power outages, cleanup and damages. 

Editor’s Note: Due to incorrect information from a source, a previous version of this story incorrectly identified the location of the tornado touch down. The Standard-Examiner regrets the error.

WASHINGTON TERRACE — During a thunderstorm that hit Weber and Davis counties Thursday afternoon, Sept. 22, a small tornado briefly touched down in Washington Terrace, the National Weather Service said.

The tornado touched down about 4 p.m. near 4700 South and 200 East, then moved northeast, Weber County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Nate Hutchinson said. As many as 12 homes in that area were so heavily damaged they were uninhabitable.

SEE PHOTOS FROM THE STORM

Water and gas were being shut down in the area Thursday evening, where there were also many downed trees and power lines.

The story continues below the video.

One home at the intersection’s corner was extensively damaged, particularly its roof. Paul Sewell, who lives in the home, was inside with his wife when the tornado hit. Sewell said his wife suffered a few minor scrapes, but he was uninjured. He said their cat, Fred, wasn’t hurt either.

“I just looked out the window, and I dropped,” Sewell said. He said it was all so quick — he’s not sure exactly what happened. However, his demeanor was surprisingly calm an hour after the storm hit.

“I smoked half a pack of cigarettes,” he said.

Weber County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Nate Hutchinson, who was at the scene, said his office hadn’t heard about any serious injuries resulting from the storm Thursday evening. He said anyone who is injured or looking for family members in Washington Terrace has been asked to go to the Washington Terrace Senior Center at 4601 S. 300 West. The Utah Red Cross will be at the center providing assistance.

Weber School District sent a notification late Thursday that school is canceled Friday at Bonneville High School, TH Bell Junior High, and Roosevelt and Washington Terrace elementary schools.

Davis County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. DeeAnn Servey said no major injuries were reported to her office either.

Monica Traphagan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said the group isn’t expecting any more tornadic activity or strong, gusty winds tonight.

“I think we’ve seen the worst,” Traphagan said. “A rather strong cold front produced these thunderstorms and that tornado, but now we’ll see more like a steady rain continuing through Friday.”

According to the National Weather Service’s website, the last time a tornado touched down in Northern Utah was in 1999 in Salt Lake City.

April Clark said she was sitting outside her Washington Terrace house with family when the storm hit. She said they saw two funnel clouds. One of them got really large and touched down a few blocks away, she said.

“I thought it was going to come right into the house because it was so big and strong,” she said.

She said the tornado probably only lasted 15 to 30 seconds — not long enough to think about running in the basement.

“It was really quick, really powerful, and then gone,” Clark said. “We saw a roof flying and a huge trampoline about 400 feet up in the sky.”

After it was over, she drove over to a friend’s house, which had the windows blown out and the roof damaged. Her friend had just left the kitchen when the tornado hit and was not injured by the shattered glass, she said.

Clark said she saw six or seven major power poles down and a few hours later, they remained without power.

Clark wasn’t alone. A slew of fallen trees and downed power lines resulted in a large power outage that affected over 37,000 Rocky Mountain Power customers as of about 5:50 p.m. 

Outside of Washington Terrace, many homes and vehicles were damaged, as well as fences and other structures. Dozens of trees and power lines were downed across Weber and Davis counties, falling on houses and across roads in some cases.

In Layton, power lines fell on at least five homes, trapping people inside until they could be cleared.

Areas of Antelope Island State Park also saw damage from the storm — so much so Fielding Garr Ranch will be closed until further notice. A news release from the park said a barn on the ranch was heavily damaged, resulting in safety concerns.

Though some other structures at the park were damaged, the news release said park officials believe no visitors, staff members or large mammals were injured.

Roads around the area saw heavy delays and were blocked off in some cases as crews worked to clear fallen trees and power lines. The power outage also rendered many traffic lights inoperable. 

Poor road conditions were reported across the area, but a few areas officials recommended avoiding are:

Layton City tweeted its fire department had received about 49 emergency calls about downed power lines as of about 5 p.m. The tweet also said a home’s roof also collapsed due to a fallen tree.

Though the National Weather Service doesn’t expect any more tornadoes to form, here’s a look at the Red Cross’ tornado safety tips:

  • The safest place to be is an underground shelter, basement or safe room.
  • If no underground shelter or safe room is available, a small, windowless interior room or hallway on the lowest level of a sturdy building is the safest alternative.
  • Mobile homes are not safe during tornadoes or other severe winds.
  • Do not seek shelter in a hallway or bathroom of a mobile home.
  • If you have access to a sturdy shelter or a vehicle, abandon your mobile home immediately.
  • Go to the nearest sturdy building or shelter immediately, using your seat belt if driving.
  • Do not wait until you see the tornado.
  • If you are caught outdoors, seek shelter in a basement, shelter or sturdy building. If you cannot quickly walk to a shelter:
  • Immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter.
  • If flying debris occurs while you are driving, pull over and park. Now you have the following options as a last resort:
  • Stay in the car with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows, covering with your hands and a blanket if possible. If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, exit your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands.
  • Your choice should be driven by your specific circumstances.

Reporters Kyle Hansen, Leia Larsen, Ben Zack, Cathy McKitrick, Makenzie Koch, Sonja Carlson, Brett Hein, Loretta Park and Ann Elise Taylor contributed to this report.

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