Tornadoes in Utah are rare, but they do happen. In fact, the Beehive State has averaged two tornadoes a year since 1950.
The most destructive tornado in the state happened on August 11, 1999, when an F2 tornado swept through downtown Salt Lake City. It killed one person, injured more than 80 people, and caused $170 million in damages.
Tornadoes are one of nature’s most violent storms. They develop from severe thunderstorms in warm, moist, unstable air along and ahead of cold fronts.
They can form in the southern High Plains and west of the Rocky Mountains. They can occur at any time of year but peak tornado activity occurs in March through May.
The most destructive tornado to hit Utah occurred in 1999, when an EF2 twister (on the enhanced Fujita scale) ripped through downtown Salt Lake City. It lasted ten minutes and killed one person, injured 80 people and caused more than $150 million in damage.
While most of us don’t see a tornado, there are several warning signs that you should look for. Dark skies that are tinted green, a rotating funnel cloud, roaring noises like a freight train or jet, large hail, or flying debris may indicate an approaching tornado is near.
In 1999, a tornado wreaked havoc in Salt Lake City. The event took many residents by surprise and awakened them to the fact that tornadoes are a reality in Utah.
The tornado ripped through the area where the Outdoor Retailers Summer Market convention was being held, destroying tents and injuring attendees. It killed one person and injured 80 others.
A 38-year-old contractor from Las Vegas was attending the event when the tornado hit and died in the aftermath. His body was discovered in a tent that had been destroyed by the tornado.
Church members volunteered to clean up Temple Square and help people in the area that were affected by the tornado. Elder Porter said that the church has a history of coming to the aid of those in need.
The weekend weather that brought strong thunderstorms to parts of Utah also produced a brief EF-2 tornado in remote southwestern Duchesne County. It tracked through Indian Canyon near the intersection of US-191 and Argyle Canyon Road, and was on the ground for four minutes and two miles before fading away.
The twister was confirmed by the National Weather Service and caused "significant" vegetation damage in a creek adjacent to US-191 at about 8500 feet. It strengthened and expanded as it dropped down into a mixed aspen and conifer forest, according to the damage survey.
It left a path of destruction in a wooded area that was about 2 miles long and 900 yards wide, the NWS reports. There were no injuries or deaths, but the tornado damaged trees and limbs in a forest that was prone to lightning.
The tornado that ripped through the southern Utah town of Panguitch on Friday was the state's second twister in less than a month. It also caused extensive flooding and dropped golf-ball-sized hail in the area.
The Beehive State has experienced a few more tornadoes in recent years than it did in the past, but still averages about 4.2 per year. That's up from the average of 1.3 tornadoes during the 1950-1988 period.
One of those occurrences was last summer, when a rare tornado in Weber County swept through the area and wrought havoc on residents' homes. It tore roofs off homes, ripped trees from the ground and even tossed barbecue grills into the air.
The tornado touched down near the summit of US-191, and a crew from the National Weather Service office in Salt Lake City observed damage in the area. They noted the path was two miles long and 900 yards wide.