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How to make sure you weather the storm and cleanup safely

Photo: Jed Boal

SALT LAKE CITY — Cleanup begins across northern Utah, a day after a storm with wild winds uprooted trees, sent trampolines sailing and even tipped over tractor-trailers on the interstates. But officials in multiple cities are warning residents to make sure they perform their storm cleanup safely. 

Safe storm cleanup: watch for downed power lines

Rocky Mountain Power spokesman Spencer Hall recommended residents wait until the wind event finishes completely before starting any storm cleanup, for a number of reasons. 

“With some of the street lights out, there are dangerous traffic conditions,” he said Tuesday on KSL NewsRadio’s Live Mic with Lee Lonsberry. 

In a news conference with Salt Lake County officials on Tuesday, Hall also pointed out you may not be able to tell if a downed power line is “live.” Additionally, debris could cover up a downed line, which means you can’t tell it’s there until too late. He urged residents to let utility workers make the rounds first. 

“We have hundreds if not thousands of crew members working to restore power,” Hall said. 

Wait until later to get started

Ogden city officials urged residents to take care and maybe wait until Wednesday or Thursday to address downed branches and trees. 

“This might be the most dangerous time to do your cleanup,” Ogden Police Lt. Brian Eynon told KSL TV. “You’re out there with a chainsaw, the winds kick up again, and weak trees that have already lost limbs can come down on you.” 

Wind gusts should gradually subside during the day on Wednesday, but forecasters expected occasional gusts throughout the day, complicating storm cleanup. 

“The temptation is to try to get out and to try to help and to clear things out, and it’s probably one of the most dangerous things that we can be doing right now,” said KSL Chief Meteorologist Kevin Eubank. “It’s going to take a day or two before we can safely get out, and then we’ll need everyone to help clean this up. It is significant tree damage across the area, and property damage associated with that.” 

Use common sense with heating, lighting solutions  

Lower temperatures combined with widespread power outages mean many Utahns are using alternative sources to heat their homes. But with that comes a risk for carbon monoxide exposure. 

“You want to be very mindful of the fact that you can’t smell carbon monoxide. And it can take just a little, small heater that has fuel in it, like kerosene and gasoline,” said Eynon. 

Gas generators can also pose a carbon monoxide threat if not properly vented, Eynon said. 

While candles may also provide light and warmth during a power outage, Eynon urged residents not to leave them unattended, to prevent fires. 

Salt Lake County offered four different warming centers for residents who need power for medical devices or other concerns.