High winds wreaked havoc Monday throughout much of Utah, spreading fires, closing roads and capsizing a boat on the Great Salt Lake.

The National Weather Service issued high wind warnings for parts of the state west of I-15 from the Idaho border through St. George, said Pete Wilensky, lead forecaster for the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City. The warning expired at 9 p.m. Monday.

A wind gust in Eureka, Juab County, was recorded at 81 mph, Wilensky said.

The gusting winds caused havoc with several fires, including a controlled burn near Santaquin. Wind may have exacerbated a fire that destroyed a barn just off U.S. 6 Monday, a sheriff's spokesman said

The fire west of Santaquin was controlled until the barn lit up about 2 p.m. A red flag warning followed about 15 minutes later, banning all controlled fires, the spokesman said.

The winds also fanned flames in Salt Lake and Tooele counties.

In Sandy, just before 3 p.m. a fire ignited at the base of a power pole near 10400 South and 1300 East, possibly from a breaker that shorted because of the wind, said Sandy fire deputy chief Mike Veenendaal. The cause of the fire was under investigation.

The fire started small, but the high winds quickly pushed it to a nearby wooden fence, across dry grass and bushes and onto the roof of the Nelson Pfleger house.

"It was like a wick," Pfleger said of the fast-moving fire. "I think if there wasn't wind we could have put it out with a garden hose."

Instead, Pfleger and his family were forced to evacuate as his attic caught fire.

Veenendaal said the Pflegers were treated at the scene for minor smoke inhalation. One firefighter received a minor injury after stepping on a nail, and another received an eye injury from blowing debris.

On the west end of Erda, Tooele County, smoldering from a controlled burn on a dairy farm about a month ago sparked and spread Monday afternoon to a haystack that was estimated to be about 30 feet high and about 15 feet wide. About 30-40 firefighters battled the fire and protected structures and other crops. The alfalfa hay is a complete loss, estimated at about $30,000, Tooele County spokesman Wade Mathews said.

Nearby roads were closed during the fire.

Lanes in both directions of I-80 closed Monday evening for about two hours in the Wendover area because of low visibility. The road opened about 6 p.m., Utah Highway Patrol spokeswoman Tammy Palmer said.

A 14-foot sailboat capsized about 1 1/2 miles off the shore of the Great Salt Lake. State parks personnel rescued the owner and his dog, ranger Bob Rosell said.

Rangers tried to get the sailboat upright, but it tipped over so many times they gave up. They secured the boat to the lake's bottom with an anchor, Rosell said.

At the marina, a boat in dry storage was blown off a trailer, Rosell said.

In Lehi, winds were so fierce that a home under construction and a sales trailer blew over. In Highland, another home under construction blew over.

No injuries were reported.

Numerous power outages were also reported. As of 9:15 p.m. on Monday, 20,000 customers were experiencing outages, the bulk along the Wasatch Front. The largest pocket was in the Hunter-West Valley City area, said a Utah Power spokeswoman. She said as long as the wind continues to blow, there will be a fluctuating number of homes affected. Rain could further complicate the problem, the spokeswoman said.

Wind gusts at Salt Lake City International Airport were 71 mph; 72 mph on Hat Island in the Great Salt Lake; 67 mph in Wendover; and 66 mph at Dugway, Tooele County. Wind blew at 63 mph in South Jordan and 60 mph in Delta.

The Tooele Valley Airport reported 60 mph winds. Milford in Beaver County and Promontory Point in Box Elder County each reported gusts at 59 mph.

Wind blew at 60 mph in Herriman and 62 mph in Hooper, Weber County.

The National Weather Service's Wilensky said the gusts are associated with a strong cold front.

Temperatures Tuesday were expected to be lower with a slight chance of thunderstorms and snow in some areas.

A 60 percent chance of rain was forecast for tonight, with overnight temperatures dropping to the mid-30s and northwest winds continuing at 10-20 mph.

"Snow levels could be close to the benches by Tuesday night," Wilensky said. "But there will be no significant accumulations."

The mountains above 6,000 feet could receive 10 inches or more of snow. "We'll be cool through at least the middle of the week," he said.

Wilensky said that for more than a week, a cold low pressure system off the coast and an inland high pressure has caused winds to kick up almost every afternoon in S.L. The month of March in Utah featured little wind, but early May has had the real kite-flying weather for Salt Lake this year.

Overnights have been extra warm in Salt Lake City during May thus far. Two overnight high temperature records were set last week.

The Salt Lake City International Airport set a new high overnight low temperature Monday with a 60-degree reading to eclipse the old record of 59, set in 1989. The Salt Lake east bench measured 55 degrees and Bountiful 66 for two other overnight temperature records.


Contributing: Rodger Hardy


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