The National Weather Service in Salt Lake City is warning of the potential for strong thunderstorms and flash flooding in central and eastern Utah Thursday into Friday — and with those storms come the possibility of lightning and wildfires.

The agency said the I-15 corridor is the dividing line with heavy rain activity possible east of the interstate, along with the potential for flooding, and gusting winds west of the corridor.

The forecast for unsettled weather comes even as a new poll shows that 1 in 10 U.S. residents have ignored evacuation orders issued for wildfires and another 3 in 4 residents have ignored them for disasters or weather events.

What the numbers show: In May generatortools.com surveyed 1,018 U.S. residents, along with analyzing Google search volume related to more than 1,500 severe weather topics and questions in all 50 states dating back to 2018.

The poll showed among U.S. residents:

  • Seventy-eight percent say they do not have a portable generator and 54% do not have an emergency supply kit.
  • Three in 4 haven’t evacuated even when an evacuation order was issued for a weather or disaster situation.
  • Twenty-three percent do not know the difference between a severe weather watch and a warning.

“One of the most shocking things is that a quarter of Americans don’t know the difference between a watch and warning. Watch means the conditions are ripe, it could form, and warning is that it has been spotted, that it’s here,” said Megan Sanctorum, a spokeswoman for Generatortools.com

The research also showed that 28% of people don’t take the warnings seriously when it comes to evacuation orders.

“I know that wildfires are a big story in several areas and we were also shocked to find out that 1 in 10 people ignored those evacuation orders and chose to stay in their home,” she said. “It can be hard to walk away from a home not knowing what you will come back to, you’re leaving a lifetime of belongings in there, but it is really important for people to follow those orders once they are issued.”

Fires and earthquakes: Utah has had several large wildfires over the years that have prompted widespread evacuations.

Related
Utah's Coal Hollow Fire prompts evacuations in 3 counties, brief closure of U.S. 6
Ranchers, wildfire and the quest to keep cows and sheep from burning
Thousands forced to flee in 2 close calls with fast-moving wildfires in Utah County Sunday

The ongoing drought in the West — with research that says it is the worst the region has suffered in 1,200 years — has amplified concerns over an active wildfire season this year.

And two years ago, Utah, which experts say is overdue for the “big one,” awakened to a 5.7 magnitude earthquake.

Related
Experts say Utah earthquake is a call for preparedness
Utah residents split on how prepared they felt for the Magna earthquake
‘No one is coming to save you’

Be Ready Utah: Wade Matthews, spokesman for the Utah Division of Emergency Management, said he couldn’t comment on the poll results specifically but said there is always a need for greater preparedness.

“Generally speaking, I feel like we do a bit better job in Utah as far as emergency preparedness goes. It is part of the culture ... and recently the earthquake increased interest in emergency preparedness.”

He emphasized the importance of emergency kits, having food and water supplies and a communication plan.

“We never know when we are going to need it, is the thing. We prepare during the blue sky days, the nonemergency day, so we can better respond and recover during the gray sky days, during disasters.”

Evacuation orders, he added, need to be followed and people need to be on alert during wildfire season, he added.

“Evacuation orders are critical. That is the difference between victims and survivors. Don’t do milling, standing around to watch what the neighbors are doing,” he said. “If you are given an evacuation order and given a time frame, follow those orders.”

Utah has an array of information on emergency preparedness on its website beready.utah.gov.

The new analysis, tapping Google search trends state by state, found that in Utah, not surprisingly, the most common disaster-related question is what to do during an earthquake.

In the state-by-state list, there were some surprising responses. In Idaho, folks worry about how to prepare their home for a tornado. In Massachusetts they wonder if it’s safe to shower during a thunderstorm (it probably is if you are inside) and Wyoming residents worry over how to comfort their dogs during thunderstorms.