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Utah's Top 10 Weather Events of the 1900s

Editor's Note: As the century draws to a close, staff at the National Weather Service offices in Utah have reviewed records of major weather events to affect the state over the past 100 years. Choosing among the numerous 20th century weather events was a difficult task. And many of the events did not impact just this state alone. These events were widespread, impacting other parts of Western United States. You will also note that most of the larger events are recent. This is due to the fact that record keeping has improved in the latter half of the century, while urbanization in the state has increased the economic impacts of severe storms and floods.

This information is taken from the National Weather Service pages.

10. September 1st, 1939

Lightning hit and killed 835 sheep that had been bedded down for the night on the top of Pine Canyon in the Raft River Mountains of Box Elder County. Rain from a passing thunderstorm wet the ground and sheep ... causing the lightning's electrical discharge to move completely through the herd. Fifteen sheep (out of 850) survived. The sheepherder was knocked temporarily unconscious ... but escaped death because he was in a tent.

9. Summer of 1943

During the summer of 1943 ... severe thunderstorms produced large hail ... heavy rain ... and extensive flooding that killed 23,300 turkeys in Box Elder ... Davis ... Weber ... and Utah counties. These events happened on June 15 (8,300 turkeys) ... July 15 (10,000) ... and July 22 (5,000). The dollar loss of these turkeys was about $70,000.

8. April 4th-5th, 1983

A severe canyon wind episode was experienced along the Wasatch Front from Utah County northward. Widespread wind gusts 60-80 mph were noted with a peak gust of 104 mph measured in the Hill Field/Layton area. Utah Power and Light reported 54 major transmission towers from the Ben Lomond Substation were either damaged or destroyed. 12 flatbed railroad cars from the Union Pacific with loaded trailers were overturned near Farmington. The director of Emergency Services in Weber County indicated that he had never seen such extensive glass damage in downtown Ogden. He stated almost every glass window in the area was destroyed.

7. January 6th-11th, 1993

A major snow event hit Salt Lake County with a "once-in-a-100 year event". heavy snow fell nearly continuously for a six day period. Salt Lake International reported a record "storm" total of 23.3 inches/26 inches on the ground. Upwards of 3 feet of snow was measured on the east side of the valley. Governor Leavitt declared a state of emergency in Salt Lake County the morning of the 11th due to massive amounts of snow. This action activated the Utah National Guard who assisted in snow removal.

6. August 13th, 1923

One of Utah's most disastrous and deadly floods caused hundreds of thousands of dollars damage to Farmington .... Centerville ... and Willard. A family of six camping in Farmington Canyon perished in the flood. Observers in Farmington Canyon reported flood crests 75-100 feet high and 200 feet wide. Patrons at nearby lagoon were rescued from trees and roofs as they sought refuge from the rapidly rising waters. At Willard ... four dwellings were destroyed and two women died when their house was demolished.

5. June 10, 1965

A husband ... wife ... their three children ... and two nephews were drowned in a flash flood in Sheep Creek Canyon of the Uinta Mountains. They were camped in Palisades Campground along the snow melt swollen water of Sheep creek. Heavy rains in the area turned the creek into a raging torrent. The flood completely destroyed five miles of newly paved highway, three recreation areas, and seven bridges. Damage estimates were placed at over 1 million dollars.

4. Winter of 1948-49

Utah's most severe winter since 1899 occurred during the winter of 1948-49. It was the coldest winter on record ... with record amounts of seasonal snowfall reported along the Wasatch Front and other portions of Utah. nearly a 25% loss in some livestock herds was reported ... many fruit trees were killed ... wildlife struggled for existence ... tourist trade reached an all-time low ... and 10 people died from exposure.

3. February 17th, 1926

Utah's most deadly avalanche occurred in Binghamcanyon. It demolished 14 miners' cottages ... A 3-story boarding house ... and killed 36 people and injured 13 others out of the 65 people that were in its path.

2. Auguest 11th, 1999

A strong F2 (113-157 MPH) tornado tore a destructive path through the Salt Lake metropolitan area of Salt Lake City. The midday tornado had an average width of 100-200 yards ... carved a path 4 1/4 miles long ... and was on the ground for 14 minutes. The path was from west of the Delta Center ... north of Temple Square ... through Memory Grove ... and the northwest section of the avenues. It killed one person ... injured more than 80 people ... destroyed or damaged 500 trees ... and caused about $170 million in damage.

1. April-June, 1983

The most severe and extensive snow melt flooding in the history of Utah occurred during the spring and early summer. The widespread flood and mud damage along the Wasatch Front impacted a major population area of the state. In April ... a massive mudslide blocked the Spanish Fork River just below Thistle. U.S. Highway 6 ...the main access to Price was destroyed as well as the mainline of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. The town of Thistle was inundated and buried by the newly created dam. Later in May into early June ... record flows were measured on five of the six creeks in the Salt Lake Valley. City Creek carried over twice the peak snow melt flow ever recorded and had to be rerouted along some of the major streets in downtown Salt Lake. In Addition, Chalk Creek near Coalville ... the Sevier River at Hatch ... and both Ashley and Dry Creeks near Vernal registered record flows. Numerous other creeks and rivers in the state were near record or well above record levels. Later IN June ... the Dmad Dam near Delta failed completely inundating the town of Deseret. At least seven persons drowned in the high waters. Damage estimates were around $300 million.

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