High winds cause major pileup, briefly halt flights in Utah

AP News
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Posted: Apr 14, 2015 7:15 PM
High winds cause major pileup, briefly halt flights in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Howling winds wreaked havoc across northern Utah on Tuesday, causing a deadly highway pileup, uprooting trees and briefly halting flights at Salt Lake City's airport as blowing dust and debris clouded the skies.

One person died and 25 others were injured in the crash on Interstate 80 near the Nevada state line, said Sgt. Todd Royce of the Utah Highway Patrol.

The pileup happened after winds kicked up dirt and reduced visibility to almost nothing, causing at least three semitrailers to roll and other cars to crash into them.

The wreck shut down a nearly 100-mile stretch of the major east-west highway in both directions for a couple of hours.

Eastbound lanes were reopened at about 4:45 p.m., with the opposite lanes expected to be reopened later Tuesday night, said Utah Department of Transportation spokesman John Gleason. The closed area stretched from the Nevada border to about 20 miles west of Salt Lake City.

Meanwhile, all flights in and out of Salt Lake City International Airport were put on hold for about 30 minutes in the afternoon.

Airport spokeswoman Barbara Gann said 15 flights were diverted during that time and were later proceeding to Salt Lake City. Because of the interruption and ongoing wind, further delays were expected into the evening, she said.

The gusting winds also uprooted trees, and caused power outages and commuter train delays. The blowing dust and debris brought a fog to most of the Salt Lake City area.

Wind speeds were reported as high as 82 mph west of Salt Lake City and in the 60 to 70 mph range in the Salt Lake City area, said National Weather Service meteorologist Christine Kruse.

Rocky Mountain Power was dealing with several large outages across the region — including nearly 3,000 customers without electricity in the Salt Lake City suburb of South Jordan.

A strong wind burst ripped roofing off a clothing store in the northern Utah city of Bountiful, South Davis Metro Fire Agency chief Jeff Bassett said.

"Half of the roof peeled back, and it folded over on the other side of the roof," Bassett said.

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Associated Press writer Michelle L. Price contributed to this report.