Emergency Management - Utah Hazards - Severe Weather
Severe weather refers to winter storms, blizzards, heavy snow, freezing rain and lightning, all hazards common to the State of Utah.
While the majority of Utah residents are no longer isolated, they are still vulnerable to the extreme conditions caused by the winter storms. Heavy snow can paralyze a city, stranding motorists, stopping the flow of supplies, disrupting emergency services, and halting classes at area schools. Heavy accumulations of snow can cause buildings to collapse and knock down trees and utility lines. The resulting danger of prolonged utility outages can become critical, during cold temperatures, which often coincide with these storms, especially to the elderly and very young. Cost of snow removal, repairing damage, and loss of business can place a large economic burden on cities. Many of the deaths due to this kind of disaster are often indirectly related, such as heart attacks from shoveling snow, and traffic accidents caused by icy roads.
Deaths directly related to severe weather to occur, such is the case with lightning. Over 40 million lightning strikes occur each year in the United States. Since 1950 there has been 51 deaths and 131 injuries, in Utah, due to lightning. Lightning is Utah's second deadliest natural hazard, trailing only avalanches, when comparing the figures from 1951 to the present. Most lightning strikes, in Utah, occur during the summer months of May, June, July, and August, when large consecutive storms come.
What can I do before a thunderstorm approaches?
- Check the weather forecast before going outdoors for extended periods.
- Watch (increasing clouds) and listen (thunder) for signs of approaching storms.
- If storminess is expected, have a radio or TV with you for updated weather information.
- If thunderstorms are imminent, postpone outdoor activities.
What should I do when a thunderstorm approaches?
- Move to safe shelter (sturdy building or a hard top automobile) immediately! Don't wait!
- DO NOT take cover under isolated trees.
- Get out of boats and away from water.
- Avoid using the telephone. Use phones ONLY in an emergency.
- Unplug appliances not necessary for obtaining weather information.
- Do not take a bath or shower.
- Turn off air conditioners.
- Pull the shades and stay away from windows.
What should I do if I'm caught outdoors in a thunderstorm and no shelter is nearby?
- Find the lowest spot away from trees, fences, and poles (not where flooding might occur).
- If you are in a forested area, take shelter under short trees.
- If you are boating or swimming, get to land and find shelter immediately!
- If you feel your skin tingle or your hair stand on end, squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands on your knees with your head between them. Make yourself the smallest target possible, and minimize your contact with the ground.
Additional Informational Resources
- Lightning Safety
- National Weather Service - Salt Lake Office
- StormReady Program
- NOAA Weather Radio and Weather Spotters Program
- NOAA - Tornado Information