Twister Hits Salt Lake City Rare Storm Kills at Least 1, Injures 100

The Florida Times Union, August 11, 1999 | Go to article overview

Twister Hits Salt Lake City Rare Storm Kills at Least 1, Injures 100


SALT LAKE CITY -- A rare tornado swept through downtown yesterday, tossing trucks and trees around and shredding tents set up for a convention. At least one person was killed, and about 100 were injured.

"It couldn't have picked a worse place," said National Weather Service meteorologist David Hogan. "The chance of it hitting a city right smack where it did today is pretty slim."

Power lines were ripped down, roofs torn off, windows blown out and shards of glass were everywhere. Helicopters landed in the streets to ferry the injured to hospitals.

Gov. Mike Leavitt flew over the mile-long path of destruction before declaring a state of emergency.

The black funnel cloud also damaged the roofs of the Delta Center, home of the Utah Jazz basketball team, and the Salt Palace Convention Center, which was hosting an outdoor retailers show.

The streets were littered with shredded tents set up for the convention.

Robert Stock of Toronto, a sales representative for a rock-climbing company, said he saw the roof of the Delta Center lift up when the tornado passed over.

"It peeled it right back, just like an orange peel," he said.

Dan Groff of San Diego, attending the convention, said he saw several "critically injured people."

"I helped one guy who had a beam fall on him. . . . It just crushed him," Groff said.

Scott Ellenwood, an employee of an audio-visual company who had been setting up a sound system for the convention, looked for a place to hide when the twister came.

"I thought, `This is it. We're going to die,' " said Daren Loyola, who was working with Ellenwood. "I thought about my wife and my daughter. I tried to run, but the wind was so strong that I felt like I was going nowhere."

At least one person died and about 100 were injured when the tornado struck about 1 p.m., said Ken Connaughton, spokesman for Mayor Deedee Corradini.

The mayor said 40 were transported to hospitals, 12 in serious or critical condition.

"Our first priority is people. We're not sure we have everyone out of this tent area near the convention center yet," said Corradini, adding that dogs were being used to search the debris. …

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