15 facts about tornadoes in Utah (15 items)

By Ben Tullis

Aug. 11, 2014

Utah is not a place known for tornadoes, but 15 years ago, on Aug. 11, 1999, a tornado ripped through downtown Salt Lake City.

Mike Leavitt, the governor of Utah at the time of the tornado, spoke to reporters just outside the Delta Center after the tornado and, according to the Deseret News, said, "Standing here in the calm of an August afternoon, it's almost inconceivable what happened.”

The following are 15 facts about the Salt Lake tornado — and Utah tornadic activity in general — for the 15th anniversary of the event.

Related: 15 years later, Utahns remember tornado that ripped through downtown Salt Lake City

1 of 15. The Salt Lake tornado was a category F2 storm

Tornadoes are ranked using the Enhanced Fujita scale. A category F0 tornado, the lowest category, has wind speeds of 65-85 mph, while the highest category, an F5, has wind speeds over 200 mph, according to the National Weather Service. The Salt Lake tornado became an F2 tornado, with wind speeds between 111 and 135 mph, just before entering the downtown district of Salt Lake City.

>> The Salt Lake tornado rips through downtown Salt Lake City on August 11, 1999.

2 of 15. The Salt Lake tornado was the most destructive in Utah’s history

The Salt Lake tornado caused an estimated $170 million in damage. The Delta Center’s roof was damaged and one of the tents set up for the Outdoor Retailers Convention was destroyed. The Wyndham (now Radisson) Hotel had windows blown out and closed temporarily to clean up the debris and shards of glass that had fallen to the ground. The Conference Center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, under construction at the time, was partially damaged when a crane toppled. Many homes were damaged, with 34 left uninhabitable, and 500 trees were destroyed and 300 were significantly damaged, according to the National Weather Service.

>> The Salt Lake tornado in downtown Salt Lake City (the orange fireball is a power substation exploding).

3 of 15. The Salt Lake tornado caused the second tornado-related fatality on record in Utah

Allen Crandy of Las Vegas, a contractor at the Outdoor Retailers Convention, was killed when flying debris hit him in the head. Crandy, who was 38 and a father of three, died on his 13th wedding anniversary, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times. One hundred and fifteen years earlier, on July 6, 1884, a 7-year-old girl, Kitty Wells, was killed when a tornado struck along the Weber River about 23 miles from Wanship, according to an account in the Deseret News that was quoted on the National Weather Service of Salt Lake City’s website. Wells and Crandy are the only people known to have died from a tornado in Utah.

4 of 15. The Salt Lake tornado led to the temporary closing of Salt Lake City

During the night of Aug. 11, 1999, Salt Lake City was closed to everyone but emergency crews, according to the article published in the Deseret News. These emergency crews included those who worked to restore electricity to parts of the city as well as workers who removed glass from the walkways and trees, some of which had landed on cars and others that blocked major roadways. Sections of two streets in Salt Lake remained closed days after the tornado for the cleanup of the tents at the Outdoor Retailers Show as well as because of the danger of the collapsed crane at the Conference Center construction site, according to an article in the L.A. Times.

5 of 15. The Salt Lake tornado caused more than 80 injuries

The Deseret News reported that 81 people were transported to area hospitals as a result of the tornado, with 16 people still in the hospital the next day. Three of the injured were listed in critical condition and one 43-year-old woman was listed as critically injured.
1. Nan BW
ELder, CO,
Nov. 23, 2014

I remember well when the SLC outdoor sales event happened. I appreciate the compilation of information about tornados presented in the article. Tornados are fascinating, yet awful, and it is good to learn their history in Utah. I lived in Ohio on the day of 100 tornados in the Midwest. Sirens were wailing all afternoon, and I didn't realize it was because we were experiencing multiple events. I took our children to the basement, and when we emerged sirens began again. I looked outside and a small tree was almost flat on the ground. It was so bizarre to see it become upright again. Later we watched as a tornado crossed Cincinnati at sundown. Now if I were aware a tornado was on its way, I'd head for a basement and stay a long while.