August 11, 1999 -- Updated 8:44 p.m. EDT, 0044 GMT, @072
Salt Lake City hit by deadly damaging tornado
At least 1 dead, more
than 40 taken to hospitals
Click image to enlarge
August 11, 1999
Web posted at: 8:35 p.m. EDT (0035 GMT)
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (CNN)
A rare tornado struck with little
warning on the west side of
downtown Salt Lake City early
Wednesday afternoon, killing at least
one person and sending more than
40 others to hospitals.
Most of the injuries took place inside
a tent which had been erected for an
outdoor trade show, which was
destroyed by the twister, said Lt. Phil
Kirk of the Salt Lake City Police
Department. Rescue workers with
dogs searched the site for other
The injured were taken by
ambulance and helicopter to a
number of local hospitals.
Fire department officials told CNN
that in all, as many as 100 people
may have been injured.
The tornado struck about 12:55 p.m.
(2:55 p.m. EDT) in an area on the
west side of downtown near the
Delta Center, home of the NBA's
Utah Jazz, and the Salt Palace
The funnel cloud then moved a short
distance northeast to an area of the
city known as The Avenues, where the roof was ripped off of one house.
The path of the tornado came near a major
shopping mall, the state capitol
and Temple Square, headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-Day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church. The storm struck at
the height of the work day, when downtown was crowded with people.
Mayor Deedee Corradini, who
surveyed the damage by helicopter,
said that given the severity of the storm
and the number of people in its path, "I
think we're very lucky so far. It could
have been much, much worse."
Delta Center roof damaged
The roof of the Delta Center was
damaged, and windows were blown
out of an adjacent Wyndham Hotel. The twister overturned a number of
large trucks and ripped the bricks off the top and side of an older building
several blocks away.
A crane was toppled at the site where a new
Mormon Church building is
being constructed. KSL-TV reported that of the more than 800 workers on
the site, none appeared to be seriously injured.
Two large tents had been set up for an event
called the Outdoor Expo. One
was relatively unscathed by the storm, but the second was reduced to
tattered rubble, with torn pieces of the tent tangled around the twisted frame.
Power transformers could be seen exploding
as the storm whipped through
the area, and power outages were reported, including one at nearby LDS
Hospital, where victims were being treated. Trees were also ripped down
along the path of the storm.
"It was deafening; you knew what it was,
and you had to get out of the
way," said Chuck Sheldon, who was in town from New Orleans for the
convention. "You could see it, the sky was filled with it. There was debris up
in it, and then you could hear it. So we ran like cattle, as fast as we could."
David Gross from Sudbury,
Massachusetts, was inside the Salt
Palace when the storm struck.
"There was lots of thunder and wind,"
he said. "The roof opened and (the
wind) ripped off a door. It was over in
15 or 20 seconds, but it seemed like a
lot longer than that. Everything was
shaking and shaking."
Tornadoes are unusual in Utah. Local television
stations reported that the
twister was the first to strike Salt Lake City in at least 20 years.
Thunderstorms formed suddenly in the desert
west of Utah's capital city
shortly after noon and moved quickly to the east, darkening the summer
skies. The National Weather Service reported that the tornado struck just
seven minutes after a severe thunderstorm warning had been issued.
The tornado was preliminarily classified as
an F2 on a tornado scale where
F0 is the weakest and F5 the most powerful. An F2 storm has winds of
between 115 and 157 miles per hour.
Police were asking people to stay off the streets
in an eight-block area of
downtown while they continued to search for possible victims and assess