Wild winds wallop Weber County

Dec 2 2011 - 12:46pm

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NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner
A wall from the new dormitory building at Weber State University in Ogden was toppled by high winds Thursday.
Erin Hooley/Standard-Examiner
Wind damaged trees in Weber County on Thursday.
NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner
A wall from the new dormitory building at Weber State University in Ogden was toppled by high winds Thursday.
Erin Hooley/Standard-Examiner
Wind damaged trees in Weber County on Thursday.

OGDEN -- Chris Dallin said he was surprised he did not see Toto fly by him Thursday morning.

The high winds that blew through the Top of Utah injured dozens of people, a few critically, left tens of thousands without power and damaged or destroyed property all over Weber County.

Dallin, spokesman for McKay-Dee Hospital, confirmed that 20 to 30 people had come into the emergency department with injuries from the storm. Most of them had cuts and bruises from getting hit by flying objects, but a few were in critical condition, he said.

Two people came into Ogden Regional Medical Center with traumatic injuries related to the wind, said spokesman Craig Bielik. A roof had collapsed on top of one patient and a tree fell on top of the other, he said.

They had also treated "a lot" of people for minor injuries, though Bielik was unable to put a figure to it.

Ogden dispatchers took about 950 calls in a 5 1/2-hour time period, said Police Lt. Danielle Croyle. In one case, a flying trampoline blew into a car traveling through the intersection of 9th Street and Harrison Boulevard, Croyle said. The car was damaged, but the driver was fine.

The storm also caused a small electrical fire at Weber County Library in the morning and a brush fire, sparked by downed power lines, at the mouth of Weber Canyon later in the afternoon.

The library remained closed for the rest of the day.

Roy Police Chief Greg Whinham said a quick damage estimate to the city will be well over $100,000.

Damage in most other Weber County cities was less severe. An assembled carport in Harrisville was blown into a tree, said Police Chief Maxwell Jackson. North Ogden and Pleasant View did not report any major damage.

About 25,000 customers remained without power Thursday evening in the Weber County area, said Rocky Mountain Power spokesman Dave Eskelsen. Crews worked to restore power to thousands of people throughout the morning, but the strong winds continued to blow and created new problems as crews repaired old ones, he said.

The power outages could continue into today for some customers. As of 9 p.m. Thursday, 24,000 customers were still without power in Utah, half of whom were in Weber County.

Box Elder County dispatchers said they had not received any reports of damage related to the wind as of Thursday afternoon.

The National Weather Service reports its highest wind speed in Weber County at 91 mph at Ogden Peak. Ogden-Hinckley Airport recorded its higher wind speeds from the upper 30s to the lower 50s throughout Thursday.

In South Ogden, one massive wind gust blew the roof off a garage, then blew it back on. The same gust knocked down a neighbor and sent her to the hospital.

Marci Edwards, spokeswoman for the South Ogden Police Department, said the woman, in her 60s, was standing in her driveway.

"The neighbor was picked up off her feet and blown down a 30-foot embankment," said Edwards. "She was taken to the hospital ... to be checked out."

Edwards did not know the woman's condition.

Karen Hassell, 755 Panorama Drive, said neither she nor her husband were home when their garage roof took its round trip through the air. The wind took the whole roof, trusses and all.

She said the rest of the house is still there. "The city engineer came and looked at the house and said it's still structurally sound, we can live in it."

Weber State University canceled daytime classes about 10:30 a.m. although buildings remained open as shelter.

For updates on whether morning classes will be held at WSU Davis, which was without power Thursday, check the school's website, www.weber.edu. Barring additional weather hazards, classes on the main campus were scheduled to resume today.

Weber State spokesman John Kowalewski said three students on the main campus reported being injured in wind-related accidents. Two women in their 20s were walking in a parking lot when the wind threw them to the ground, causing abrasions, Kowalewski said. They were treated on site.

A third student, age 60, was injured when the wind whipped open a door at the Kimball Arts Center as the student was trying to enter.

Kowalewski said the wind broke windows and doors, knocked down branches and trees and blew over a cinder block wall being constructed as part of a new dormitory.

Carefully crafted science projects were gone with the wind at Uintah Elementary School when winds caught fourth- through sixth-grade science fair contestants off guard.

"Some kids were bringing projects in that they'd put a lot of work into, only to have them blow away," said Nate Taggart, Weber School District spokesman. "The principal and staff were out there trying to help the kids get their projects into school."

Several Weber School District schools lost power but classes continued, Taggart said.

Taggart said late Thursday that power was restored to all schools except Lakeview and Roosevelt Elementary Schools and T.H. Bell Junior High. A decision will be made early today as to whether those four schools would hold classes. Closure information will be posted at the district website, http://weber.k12.ut.us.

The Ogden School District closed a preschool and a dozen other schools.

Schools closed Thursday were elementaries Bonneville, Gramercy, Hillcrest, Horace Mann, Polk, Shadow Valley, T.O. Smith and Taylor Canyon. All three district juniors highs, Highland, Mound Fort and Mount Ogden, were closed, as were all three high schools, Ben Lomond, Ogden and Washington.

District spokeswoman Donna Corby said several campuses had trees down and windows broken, but no injuries were reported.

On Thursday night, Madison Elementary School, which had remained open, began having boiler problems.

Corby said any decision about school closings will be made early this morning. News will be given to KSL radio, AM 1160, and to the Ogden Police Department, which will post closures on its website, reachable through www.ogdencity.com.

Corby said the update would not run on the Ogden School District website because district headquarters also suffered a power outage.

The Red Cross opened a shelter at the Ogden City Public Works Building, 133 W. 29th St.

Standard-Examiner reporters Charles Trentelman and Nancy VanValkenburg contributed to this story.

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