2010 March 31: UT Salt Lake City: Winds wreak havoc on air quality, ski lifts
A small grassfire was whipped into a raging blaze that destroyed three buildings at the Great Salt Lake Marina, where winds almost reached 60 mph Tuesday afternoon.
"It was a wall of fire coming down this way," said harbor master Dave Shearer.
High winds wreaked havoc across the state Tuesday, covering northern Utah with a dust cloud and creating traffic hazards throughout the state.
Near the lake, Shearer watched the flames hop from one side of Interstate 80 to the other, lighting the lakeside weeds into a 90-foot blaze about one mile from the marina.
Two minutes later, the fire had consumed two maintenance storage buildings and a shed, Shearer said.
The flames were just 100 yards from the main marina building when the winds changed.
"Considering all the personal property that’s out here, with all the boats, we really feel very lucky," Shearer said.
A fourth building, an environmental monitoring station owned by Kennecott Utah Copper, also was damaged on the other side of Interstate 80.
The wildfire burned about 60 acres after it erupted around 12:30 p.m. in the cattails and marsh grasses between eastbound I-80 and State Road 201 in west Salt Lake County and eastern Tooele County, said Utah Highway Patrol spokesman Cameron Roden.
Motorists stalled for miles until slightly calmer winds allowed crews to subdue the fire about 4:30 p.m., said Unified Fire Authority Capt. Clint Smith.
Gusts tore across the state Tuesday, with Signal Mountain near St. George clocking the fastest winds at 109 mph. Winds faster than 80 mph were reported at Ogden Peak, Sundance, Snowbasin and Cardiff Peak. Snowbird reported online that its tram was closed due to high winds. Brian Head Ski Resort, east of Cedar City, closed three lifts due to wind.
Across northern Utah, incoming dust devastated air quality. Particulate matter in the air normally ranges from 10 to 30 micrograms per cubic liter of air, said Neal Olson, spokesman for the state Division of Air Quality. From 11 a.m. to noon Tuesday, measurements spiked to 763.
Winds also toppled a semitrailer truck in Sardine Canyon, halting traffic between Logan and Brigham City, Utah High Patrol said.
Winds died down late Tuesday afternoon in northern Utah. Southern and southeastern Utah will see high winds continue until today, said Monica Traphagan, lead forecaster with the National Weather Service.
The forecast calls for heavy precipitation in northern Utah todnight through Thursday. The Wasatch Mountains could see between one and two feet of snow, Traphagan said, but there should be some accumulation in valleys as well.
Highs both days will be in the mid- to low 40s.
Southern and southeastern Utah will see high winds continue until today, Traphagan said. Rain and snow is likely at higher elevations, including Cedar City, where highs will be in the low 50s.
The cold front will hit St. George today, as well, when temps will drop to the low 60s, with a 40 percent chance of rain.
Judy Fahys, Bill Oram and Bob Mims contributed to this report.
2010 March 31: UT Salt Lake City: Dust storm coats the Wasatch Front
|Reported by: Brent Hunsaker
Last Update: 3/31 11:07 am
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) – The air over the Wasatch Front on Tuesday was thick. It was so thick you could cut it with a knife. So thick you could chew it.
Some people might have thought the grey-brown haze was pollution. But actually it was mostly dust kicked up off the floor of the West Desert and blown up against the Wasatch Range. Bryce Bird of the Division of Air Quality said, "It’s compressed in here. We had the south winds most of the day then the north winds. So we’re stuck in the middle right now seeing these really elevated levels of fine particulate matter."
It coated cars and buildings and even people. Brid said most of the dust consists of larger particles that our bodies can handle, "but there are some fine particles as well that do impact some people."
A few people went to emergency rooms at area hospitals with respiratory problems. "Mostly difficulty breathing, swelling to the throat, asthma exacerbations," explained Doctor David Hasleton at Riverton Hospital. "So the symptoms can actually be worse with the dust that’s in the air and the pollen now."
Fortunately most of the dust was blowing out Tuesday night. And what remained was sure to be scoured by the forecast rain.
2010 March 30: UT Salt Lake City: (VIDEO) Wind is whipping up air quality concerns
March 30th, 2010 @ 6:41pm
SALT LAKE CITY — All the dust in the air Tuesday may not be as bad for you as a winter inversion, but the Division of Air Quality says it’s enough to cause problems for people with respiratory issues. Environmental scientist Neal Olson said, "It is very dramatic. You go from under 100 to better than 700 micrograms per cubic meter in a couple of hours’ time."
Wildfire and high winds force freeway closures
Aside from the smoke blowing in from a grass fire near Saltair, much of Tuesday’s dirty air came from disturbed soil. Olson said the dust comes from areas where the ground has been disturbed, such as the gravel pits in North Salt Lake and the beaches of the Great Salt Lake.
"We’ve had wind gusts out by the airport of 39 miles an hour; and out in West Jordan 49 miles an hour," he said.
The fire, the loose soil and the wind all translated into a thick blanket of dust that swallowed much of the Salt Lake Valley.
It may have been ugly, but surprisingly toxicologists say Utahns are used to a lot worse.
Steve Packham, a toxicologist with the Utah Division of Air Quality, said, "Anything can be dangerous, but this is far less dangerous than wintertime pollution."
Unlike in the winter, these pollution particulates are not as fine, making them easier for our bodies to block naturally.
"A lot of these particles will be taken out by your mucus systems in your nose and throat, and not necessarily getting down into your lungs like the smaller particles we see in the wintertime," Olson said.
The National Weather Service has posted a wind advisory through 9 p.m. Tuesday.
The Utah Division of Air Quality issued a Yellow Air Quality Action condition as well for Salt Lake, Davis, Utah and Weber Counties because of blowing dust.
Olson said winds whip enough dust to create an air quality advisory only three times a year.