SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Twenty years ago started pretty much like any other warm summer day in Utah. Then came nine-minutes of weather that those in Salt Lake City will never forget.
It was about five minutes to 1:00 PM on August 11th. The sky didn’t look normal, it had just hailed golf ball-sized hail in Herriman and it kept getting worse. People swore they saw something swirling.
Channel four photographer Kevin Bond started shooting the sky.
Then the improbable happened: it was a tornado ripping through downtown.
It kept swirling. It gathered up pieces of buildings and windows and tossed them around as it headed towards Temple Square.
People who were at the Temple for a wedding huddled together and watched as the tornado lifted a bit and cleared the historic block. They could see more pieces of buildings swirling.
Rain followed the winds.
The storm then hit The Avenues, Memory Grove, and the Capitol.
And then the funnel cloud disappeared again into the dark sky.
Now it was time to see what happened.
The first casualty was at the point of touchdown: the Sun Bar. Fortunately, no one was in the place then.
The Delta Center lost part of the roof and windows, as did the Wyndham Hotel, almost every window was gone.
Across the street were tents for the Outdoor Retailers Shows. The storm killed 38-year-old Allen Crandy who was supervising the set-up of a booth.
A crane toppled at the LDS Conference Center that was under construction.
And when people got to their homes in The Avenues, it was a mess, but all were accounted for, and they knew houses could be replaced.
“The sun is shining we are alive.”
People couldn’t believe what had happened to Memory Grove: Virtually every one of the hundreds or so pines were gone. The city lost between 300 and 500 trees.
And then at the Capital building at the end of the path, where there was once a forest, 90 trees were gone in just 9 minutes.
Now it was time to clean up the 150 million dollars of damage.
“Anyone 15 years old who wants to volunteer please show up at Memory Grove at 8:00 am Tuesday morning,” said Mayor Dee Dee Corradini back in 1999.
And folks came to rescue their city.
They worked day after day until most of the rubble was gone.
President Clinton and the federal government declared the city a disaster area and those funds helped also.
It was a once-in-a-lifetime event – at least we hope it is – that moment 20 years ago when the sky just didn’t look normal.