Utah is a long way from Kansas, but some Davis and Weber County residents must have felt as though they were in the land of Oz when a swift-moving storm produced a tornado and microbursts Wednesday afternoon.
A small "twister" touched down in North Ogden causing extensive damage, while strong winds and heavy rain uprooted trees and moved large objects - like vehicles - at will in North Ogden, Syracuse and near the Freeport Center in Clearfield.There were no reports of injuries.
Debris and gusty winds shattered windows in several warehouses, businesses and cars in Davis County just after 5 p.m., said Steve Layton, emergency service director for Clearfield city.
"I got a call from a guy who said he saw swirling rain and thought it was a tornado," Layton said. "I don't know for sure what it was, but it was powerful and it sheared about 100 trees, as far as we can tell. It was definitely a strong microburst."
National Weather Service meteorologist William Alder said the windstorms were embedded in a large thunderstorm that started near Grantsville and intensified as it moved across the Great Salt Lake. Two severe thunderstorm warnings were issued for portions of Davis, Weber, Box Elder and Tooele counties.
Layton, who was out most of the evening surveying damage with Clearfield city manager Jack Bippes, said a twister wouldn't be unusual for the area.
"We've seen them in the Syracuse area before," he said.
Since 1950, there have been 78 confirmed tornadoes in Utah, with seven in Davis County and three in Weber County.
A tornado swirls like a blender, leaving damage in every direction. Microbursts create straight-line winds that blow everything in one direction.
The roof over the dock at Americold, a Clearfield cold-storage distribution warehouse, was torn off by the wind.
Employees were frightened but not injured, said Mike Meline, general manager. A damage estimate was not yet available.
The tornado touched down in North Ogden near the Spa Fitness Center.
"Cars were blown around and four cars were blown together," Alder said. "There was lots of tree damage. We've had a lot of rain, and that's exacerbated the situation." Alder said the tornado was "small and short-lived." Wednesday's small tornado had winds near 100 mph, unlike large twisters where winds can reach 300 mph.
The 30-minute squalls also damaged a warehouse owned by the Davis School District.
Trees that were picked up, blown over or sheared by the winds littered the hardest hit areas, and Layton said a large tree in front of the city offices fell as others crashed into homes or lay in open fields.
Police in Layton responded to a mobile home park where a trailer's roof had been damaged, and a semi-trailer truck in Clearfield reportedly was pushed onto its side by the storm.
The storm left about 15,000 people without power. David Eskelsen, Utah Power spokesman, said north Davis and Weber counties were the hardest hit. Poles and wires were damaged by the wind and by objects flying through the air - including trampolines, Eskelsen said. Most areas had power restored by Thursday morning.