A look back at the ’99 Salt Lake Tornado: Salt Lake City’s “biggest weather story of the century”

Eighteen years ago today, a massive tornado ripped through downtown Salt Lake City, causing one death, at least 81 injuries and an estimated $170 million in damages.

The giant funnel shocked Utahns and weather experts alike by striking before any warning could be issued.

Here’s a look back at eyewitness accounts of the stunning event and the reasons why no one involved can forget what one Utah climate expert called Salt Lake City’s “biggest weather story of the century.”

(Gary McKellar, Deseret News)

“The ceiling turned to sky”

Before the tornado touched down, August 11, 1999, felt like an ordinary summer day.

In Salt Lake City’s Avenues district, Grace Wilson and her daughters were watching TV when they heard a ferocious wind. They looked out the window and saw a powerline explode with a flash of lightning, and — suddenly — a tree crashed through their living room. Then, as one Deseret News reporter described, “the ceiling turned to sky.”

(Gary McKellar, Deseret News)

“I watched the roof blow right off,” Emily Wilson said. “That’s when I knew this was serious and we needed to get downstairs.”

Across the street from the Wilsons at the Northcrest Neighborhood outdoor pool, Katherine Bradway was about to start lifeguard duty when she saw the same lightning flash. Thinking it was just a summer storm, Bradway joked with her fellow lifeguards, insisting, “It’s Utah — we can’t be having a tornado.”

But Bradway realized something more serious was happening when hefty garage doors began to fly off their hinges, dogs were launched over fences and she was forced to evacuate the pool.

Several blocks southwest of the Avenues, Dick Fernandez, a 52-year-old insurance salesman, was walking to work from a parking lot at the corner of North Temple and West Temple when he felt a powerful gust of wind.

Read the full article from the Source…

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