SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — There is a chance – albeit a very slim chance – Utah could see a tornado form along the I-15 corridor on Tuesday.
The National Weather Service of Salt Lake City said the Storm Prediction Center is forecasting a 2% chance of a tornado forming in Utah, anywhere between St. George in the southwest and Logan in the north. NWS said the chance is small but called it a “nonzero.”
The reason why there is an increased chance of a tornado in Utah is because of energy in the atmosphere. Following Hurricane Hilary, Utah is sandwiched between a low-pressure system to the west and a high-pressure system to the east, creating an atmospheric spin over Utah. That energy builds into the afternoon but will die down by the evening.
If a tornado did form in Utah, the National Weather Service said it could form within 25 miles of any point within the green area on the map above.
“In other words, if you are located in this area, there is a 2% chance that a tornado develops within 25 miles of you,” said NWS.
Tornados are very rare in Utah but they also happen more commonly than most Utahns may think. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), there have been 138 tornados recorded in Utah since 1950. The most recent was an EF2 that hit Fruitland in Duchesne County in 2022. In 2021, Utah had four tornados form across Davis, Weber, Emery, and Juab counties.
Very rarely do these tornados actually cause any property damage or harm to humans. NOAA records show most of these tornados come and go without a problem. The last time significant damage was done was from an EF1 tornado that struck Roy in 2016. With winds reaching as high as 110 miles per hour, the tornado dealt $2 million in property damage and injured five.
The most infamous Utah tornado touched down in Salt Lake City in 1999. The 1999 EF2 tornado is the only tornado in Utah to claim a life, killing one person, injuring 80 others and causing $170 million in property damage.
So what should you do if a tornado forms near you? The National Weather Service says you should get as low as you can.
“A basement below ground level or the lowest floor of a building offers the greatest safety,” said NWS. “Put as many walls between yourself and the outside as possible. Avoid windows at all costs.”
if possible, NWS recommends hiding under something sturdy and using pillows, heavy coats, or blankets to protect yourself from flying debris. If you’re outside, find a ditch or stay in your car and cover your head. While it may seem like a good idea to take cover underneath a highway overpass, NWS said wind speeds could cause a tunneling effect and make it more dangerous.
Game planning and setting up weather alerts are the best way to prepare for a natural disaster, with NWS reminding the public, “When thunder roars, go indoors.”