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Windstorm, power outages delay school yet again, force park closures in SLC

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall spoke to reporters outside Emerson Elementary School on Thursday, as school officials announced the school year will now be delayed until Monday. Photo: KSL NewsRadio

SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake City School District announced another delay for the beginning of the school year as power outages from this week’s windstorm persisted across the city. 

Friday would have been the first day of the school year for Salt Lake City, after the starting date was delayed multiple times by the windstorm and power outages. Now, the first day will be Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. 

Salt Lake City School District faces yet another delay 

Interim Superintendent Larry Madden said too many families are still without power across Salt Lake City for the schools to function properly on Friday.

“The impacts of the storm were more severe than we anticipated,” said Madden. “Thousands of people remain without power.”

The first day would have looked different regardless of the storm; Salt Lake City opted to start its school year with remote learning because of COVID-19. Based on the information from Rocky Mountain Power and remote instruction, the district is postponing school until people can get back online.  

“Even if every family had electricity now, we know many families are dealing with the loss of internet connection or destruction of property,” said Madden. “We hope this additional time will help prepare our students, teachers, and staff for school on Monday.” 

Power outages could stretch into Friday

“This was really a historic storm,” said Rocky Mountain Power (RMP) spokesman Spencer Hall. “The destruction was so widespread.”

Hall explained hurricane-level winds stretched from California to Oregon, passing through Wyoming and Idaho. 

At the peak of the storm, roughly 180,000 Utah power customers customers were without power. As of Thursday, only 60,000 homes and businesses remain without power. 

“We are hoping to get everyone’s power back on by today [Thursday],” said Hall. However, he notes some people may not have power until Friday. 

In order to quicken restoration efforts, RMP sister companies from around the country have traveled to Utah to help. The company has had to clear debris, fix power lines, and transmissions, before restoring the power for residents.

“It’s been about fixing the backbone,” said Hall, saying transmission lines had to be addressed before the utility could go into individual neighborhoods. 

“The East Bench got hit the hardest,” Hall said, but added Salt Lake’s west side experienced severe home damage and debris. “Some of Salt Lake’s most vulnerable were hit hardest by the storm.”  

Hall explained “there is no decision on socio-economic status,” when it comes to restoration efforts. 

Hall said wherever the most people without power are is where crews focus first. Crews also prioritize hospitals and emergency facilities. 

Conditions force SLC park closures

Mayor Erin Mendenhall signed a proclamation closing several parks around the city due to hazardous conditions and debris. 

Liberty, Fairmont, Sunnyside, Jordan, Lindsey Gardens, Richmond, Riverside, and Washington Square Parks, as well as the Salt Lake City Cemetery, will be closed until further notice. 

“The downed trees in the parks are not safe to be around,” explained Mendenhall. “It’s the loosened trees. They can fall at any time.” 

Mendenhall advised parents to keep children away from fallen trees because of inherent danger.

“We want to keep everyone safe and also give our crews the space to clean up our parks,” said Mendenhall.