Friday, November 28, 2014

When a “big blow” struck Northern Utah

                The mouth of Weber Canyon creates a funnel for high winds.

STRONG canyon winds have plagued the Top of Utah numerous times since the pioneers settled here.
As the May 23, 1914 Ogden Standard-Examiner recalled the windy day of Nov. 15, 1860, that  brought a “Big blow” out of Ogden Canyon -- one of the worst-ever such winds.
“Every fence that faced the wind is prostrated,” the account stated. “Mr. McQuarrie’s fine two-story house is leveled to the ground. Mr. Bowman’s dwelling house is blown down. Mr. Jost’s cottage is completely destroyed. Mr. Jonathan Browning’s large two-story house  -- with basement for merchantile purposes, as also that house of M.C. Shurtliff.”
Ogden City Hall was unroofed. About one-third of the north side of the Tabernacle was also unroofed. A cow belonging to Mr. Ensign was killed when a pole from a shed came loose and hit the animal in the head.
-Oct. 20-21, 1906 was another big blow in Ogden. “Storm did damage to nearly every house. Railroad trains and street cars failed to move for hours – Electric light and telephone lines damaged – There will be no lights in homes of Ogden tonight” was an Oct. 22, 1906 headline in the Standard.
The report stated that hurricane force winds blew for 36 hours. Many windows were broken and at least 200 telephone poles were knocked down, along with many chimneys.
-Oct. 30-31, 1920 was still another high wind event. The Nov. 1 Standard that year stated that trees, telephone poles, and barns were damaged.
A rusting city water main on 23rd Street, between Adams and Jefferson avenues, also broke during the storm “and caused a flood to sweep down the hill.”
-The pioneers soon noticed that a “cap cloud,” low-hanging clouds along the crest of Wasatch Mountains often meant canyon winds would follow 24-72 hours later.
-Davis County also has a lengthy history of canyon wind events. During a visit by Brigham Young to Farmington on Nov. 9, 1864, the canyon winds were blowing and President Young rebuked the winds.  Until 1896, the canyons winds didn’t return again.
-However, earlier in February of 1864, canyon winds struck Farmington hard during a winter cold spell. Elizabeth Rigby and her son, John, froze to death in that storm after being pinned against a fence by hurricane force. (Husband John Rigby was in Salt Lake on business at the time.)
Besides those two fatalities, the Rigby home’s roof was blown off and some 200 sheep, six horses and 10 cows also perished because of downed buildings and the frigid winds.
-The first canyon winds recorded by pioneers in Davis County happened in the fall of 1848, within the first few days of some settlers, like Daniel A. Miller of Farmington, having just arrived there.

              The narrow mouth of Ogden Canyon is a natural wind funnel.

-Historically, perhaps  the highest regularity for canyon winds in northern Utah was the 40-year span from 1959-1999, when 29 episodes of such high canyon winds blew. That means these “big blows” averaged coming about every 16 ½ months. They have been less frequent ever since.

 (-Originally published on-line and in print in the Ogden Standard-Examiner, by Lynn Arave on Nov. 27-28, 2014.)

-NOTE: The author, Lynn Arave, is available to speak to groups, clubs, classes or other organizations about Utah history at no charge. He can be contacted by email at:  

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