[media-credit id=13 align=”alignnone” width=”300″][/media-credit][media-credit id=13 align=”alignnone” width=”300″][/media-credit][media-credit id=13 align=”alignnone” width=”300″][/media-credit]Wind gusts as high as 65 mph that swept across campus throughout the morning and early afternoon yesterday caused widespread damage to buildings, cars and trees and prompted Weber State University administrators to cancel afternoon classes.
The winds — which were clocked by a National Weather Service (NWS) station at 92 mph on Mt. Ogden and reached recorded speeds of 102 mph in Centerville — began early Thursday morning when a cold air mass from the northeast collided with a warm air mass from the South West, said Steve Rogowski, a NWS meteorologist. When the fronts met, the high pressured cold air rushed down the mountain and underneath the low pressured and fast rising warm air mass, creating the violent winds. The result was the most severe wind storm since 1999, Rogowski said.
A few minutes after 9 a.m., WSU administrators activated code purple — an emergency response messaging system — to advise students to stay inside because of flying debris. Code purple alerted students classes were canceled more than an hour later. Classes resumed at 4:30 p.m. at the Ogden campus but remained closed at the Davis campus because of power outages. All classes at the Davis campus have been canceled for today.
The wind bursts uprooted many trees — at least 17 — destroyed recently installed solar panels on the Shepherd Union Building’s roof and ripped off a large piece of roofing from the Stewart football stadium. One witness said the piece came off the roof and burst into hundreds of pieces that fell to the ground. Chunks of the roof as wide as four feet by three feet were scattered on the stairwell just North of the Marriott Health Building. Several police officers and facilities management personnel blocked the parking lot west of the stadium from pedestrian and vehicle traffic after the roof was peeled off until the winds subsided.
Three students sustained minor injuries from gusts, said John Kowalewski, director of media relations. Two students were blown off their feet in the A6 parking lot and suffered abrasions and one, a bloody nose. They were treated at the scene, Kowalewski said. Another student was struck by a door blown open by the wind near the Kimball Arts Building, Kowalewsksi said. He added this person might have been transported to a local hospital for precautionary reasons. At 5 p.m. Thursday, Kowalewski knew of no serious injuries.
“At this point in time, the fact that we have yet to hear of any significant injuries to members of our campus community is good news,” Kowalewskis said. “The safety and well-being of our students, our faculty and our staff is always of the utmost importance to Weber State. We had circumstances today that were very dangerous at times because of the nature of these wind gusts.”
The winds also knocked down at least three walls of new student housing being constructed north of Promontory Tower. The site was cluttered with debris and its north fence was blow down. Several windows in various buildings across campus shattered, and the Shepherd Union Building’s atrium was closed when sky windows broke and shards of glass fell to the ground. Kevin Hansen, associate vice president of Facilities Management, said volcanic rock used in the roofing of some buildings struck vehicles after it blew off.
Facililities Management crews spent the morning assessing the damage and clearing the most hazardous debris. In the late afternoon, they began clearing debris in earnest, cutting trees with chainsaws and piling damaged solar panels. WSU officials were still assessing the breadth of damage late Thursday and didn’t know what repairs would cost. Norm Tarbox, vice president for administrative services, said state insurance will cover most of the cost of repairs.
Crews only responded to incidents that presented a life safety hazard during the most severe stages of the storm.
“I will not put my people in a position where their life or their safety is at risk for a material object,” Hansen said. “It’s not worth it.”
More than 47,000 people across the Wasatch front were without power at 5 p.m., according to Rocky Mountain Power. The number of household outages had dropped to 26,000 by 9:30 p.m.