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Damage from Utah windstorm may top $20 million

SHARE Damage from Utah windstorm may top $20 million
It seems wherever you go, you see a group of people that have just come together and are helping a neighbor out.

FARMINGTON — Wind-caused damage from Thursday's storm should easily top $20 million to homes, businesses and public infrastructure in Davis County alone — even as debris removal costs mount over the weeks to come.

"There are a lot of folks out there trying to put the pieces together," said Davis County Commission Chairwoman Louenda Downs.

"Humpty Dumpty had a great fall," she said. "But all the kings' horses and all the kings' men are out there working to put us back together."

Among those trying to pick of the pieces of their lives and property were residents of Centerville.

"There have been a lot of trees here in Centerville that have been here as long as many of the houses … that have come down and it's kind of sad to see some of that history come down," said homeowner Bryan Bartholomew.

Bartholomew noted, however, that the hardship resulting of the storm has been softened somewhat by the outpouring of support from other affected community members.

"It seems wherever you go, you see a group of people that have just come together and are helping a neighbor out," he said.

Another Centerville resident, David Williamson, has the unenviable task of trying to repair his heavily damaged roof as the temperature drops along the Wasatch Front over the next few days. But like so many of his neighbors, he is taking the prospect in stride.

"I'm finding a lot of joy on my weekend," Williamson explained sarcastically. "I have four days off (to repair) my roof that I wasn't going to fix until next spring,"

Williamson and his father-in-law expect to put down 250 square feet of new shingles in the coming days, something he doesn't know all that much about.

"I've done maybe one and half roofs my whole life, so that's the extent of my experience," Williamson said. Meaning there is no guarantee on his work.

"We'll wait until the snow and ice get on it to see if it holds up," he said.

Until then, Williamson said he considers himself lucky that the damage to his property was not any worse, especially compared to a lot of his neighbors.

"No trees on the house, my fence suffered some shots, got a shed with a hole through it," he said. "But we fared fairly well compared to others I guess you could say."

Preliminary damage estimates to city and county-owned buildings and other property is easily at $3.5 million, Downs added, leading to Thursday's disaster declaration by county officials.

That declaration will kick in a review by the state and precipitate a visit by Federal Emergency Management teams to review damage claims. Federal funding could be tapped to help cities and the county recoup costs for replacement of hundreds of street signs, traffic signals and light poles lost to the hurricane-force winds. It would also cover costs to replace tiles and roofs of government-owned buildings damaged in the storm.

Centerville declared a disaster Thursday and on Friday, Farmington officials were following suit.

"We have a massive amount of damage," said Farmington City Manager Dave Millheim, who spent much of Friday on a tour of wind-ripped sites.

He said the wind came with such force it turned flying debris into dangerous projectiles.

"At Farmington City Hall, the concrete tiles on the roof acted like missiles," he said. "We had 15 to 20 embedded tiles that went through shingles, wood, membranes. You could not throw one hard enough to make it do that."

The storm also inflicted damage to people caught in its midst or the aftermath. Three Weber State University students in Ogden were injured Thursday by the blowing wind itself as it slammed them into the ground or into doors, and a Bryant Middle School student was critically injured by a falling limb while walking his dog before school in Salt Lake City.

On Friday, a Bountiful couple was rescued by a passer-by after they suffered accidental carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a generator being used to heat their home. They were receiving treatment in a hyperbaric chamber.

Millheim said Farmington's mayor, Scott Harbretson, was trying to clear away a fallen tree on Thursday when the ladder gave way. He broke several bones in his face when he slammed into tree debris.

Throughout cities along the Wasatch Front most impacted by the storm, the costs are continuing to be tallied. Centerville estimates $8 million in damage, with residential losses bearing the brunt at $6 million.

In Farmington, the city's new flagship development, Station Park, racked up as much as a half million dollars in damage. Millheim said the expensive light poles put in are all bent at a symmetrical angle that at first glance looks like it was intended that way.

Elsewhere, Lagoon Amusement Park had multiple trees uprooted at its campground, its periphery and inside, as well as damaged trailers. A spokesman said the rides — even the tall ones — escaped unscathed. Millheim put damage at as much as $6 million and Bountiful is at $4 million and counting.

In excess of 50,000 Rocky Mountain Power customers who went black Thursday due to the high winds, multiple businesses closed up shop early — from restaurants to banks and state-owned facilities such as liquor stores and the Farmington Division of Motor Vehicle offices.

By Friday afternoon, 5,000 Rocky Mountain customers were still in need of power, and Bountiful — which has it owns power utility — was 90 percent restored. A recording updated late Friday said there were still "many power outages throughout" Bountiful and warned that it could still be several days before full restoration.

Kaysville, on its own power as well, called in help from Lehi, Brigham and Heber cities to augment crews working around the clock.

"I was out late last night, and I tell you I have never seen such a skilled, positive group of guys to be scaled up on a power pole at 10 o'clock in the freezing weather," Kaysville Mayor Steve Hiatt said. "They were here to help a sister city in need."

Hiatt said the crews worked through Thursday night to restore power, which could still be unavailable to some central city residents by as late as Sunday. The central area of the city — Old Town — sustained the most damage, he added.

While many schools limped through the storm Thursday without power, others shut down — like all those in Centerville. The Davis School District canceled all classes on Friday. Multiple buildings were damaged, and many school buses had windows blown out.

The state racked up its share of headaches as it prepared to deal with the storm in advance by sending transportation crews to 23 rest stops or pull-outs to warn truckers of the calamity that could result to high-profile vehicles. Ten toppled on I-15 along the Davis County corridor, and several more tipped on U.S. 89 on the area's eastern bench.

Extra troopers and dispatchers were called in to deal with the anticipated traffic problems, which saw I-15 brought to a standstill at the height of the storm and during the Thursday afternoon commute. A new smartphone application released by the Utah Department of Transportation for the latest road and weather information was downloaded by more than 6,000 people on Thursday.

Gov. Gary Herbert's office on Friday said it is still working with Davis County and impacted cities as damage estimates come rolling in.

"Now, as we clean up and repair damage, we have plans in place to assess damage and determine if and where additional public resources are needed," he said in a prepared statement. "The concerted effort of local, county and state responders will go on as long as is necessary to restore services and insure personal safety."

Herbert toured areas in Davis County on Friday and said in a Tweet: "Our hearts go out to those affected and our thanks to those who responded."

Aside from multiple school events that were canceled due to the storm, a Bountiful parade was called on Friday evening, with city resources instead directed at clearing away debris and dealing with traffic signal problems.

Rocky Mountain Power spokeswoman Maria O'Mara stressed that customers who remain without power may be experiencing the trouble not because of a downed line but because of storm-damaged meters. Customers should first check breaker boxes and then the meter to see if the exterior device is damaged. If there is damage and the power is out, an electrician should be called, O'Mara said.

Bountiful's shelter at Mueller Park Junior High School, 955 E. 1800 South, remained open Friday night because of residents who remained without power. Some of those shelters were precautionary as cities reached out in the emergency.

Layton Assistant City Manager Jim Mason said a shelter was set up at Legacy Junior High School for residents, particularly those hardest hit east of Fairfield, in case they needed help, "but no one showed up."

Calls for help in removing debris, however, are piling in from everywhere, Mason said, and are not likely to diminish anytime soon as hundreds upon hundreds of trees need to find their way to the landfill.

Wasatch Integrated, which runs the Davis County landfill on state Route 193 in Layton, is taking clean green waste through Dec. 17 from any resident who belongs to a member city in the district at no cost. That would exclude Bountiful, which has its own landfill that is also taking the waste for free.

Director Nathan Rich said the lines were already stacking up deep on Friday by residents hauling away tree branches and limbs.

"It's going to be an incredible amount of waste," he said, adding that it will all be recycled over time. "It's going to be crazy, absolutely crazy. I would just ask people to be patient. We will get to you. We'll get it taken care of."

The facility suffered its own share of problems in the torrential wind storm on Thursday, shutting down for the first time in Rich's 12-year tenure there. He estimates wind caused as much as $400,000 in damage.

"We don't have any signs left," he said, adding that a 5-acre section of landfill cover went airborne.

"It got sucked up and took off like an airplane."

The cities that are collecting green debris at selected repositories such as Centerville can take their waste to the landfill for free as part of an ongoing arrangement, he said. In Kaysville, the city is ramping up its refuse collection efforts at curbside, where the mayor said crews will haul away green debris.

All residents should take caution to not block city streets or sidewalks as they pile up the remnants of downed trees and other foliage.

Centerville has posted staging locations for debris on its website, www.centervilleut.net. South Weber is posting updates on its Facebook page and Ogden has an assistance line: 801-399-HELP.

E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com

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