Locals caught in Salt Lake funnel
By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer
When a violent thunderstorm turned into an even more violent swirling
funnel cloud in downtown Salt Lake City last week, several Wood River Valley residents
found themselves in a very dangerous situation.
A handful of Wood River locals were on the Wasatch Front during the
devastating tornado for an annual summer outdoor show called the Outdoor Retailers Summer
Market, which was scheduled to start on Thursday.
One of the shows outdoor tents received the full wrath of the
storm and even the iron-and-steel-clad convention center that housed many of the outdoor
retailers for the show was not immune to the tornados effects.
No Wood River Valley residents were injured or killed, according to
interviews with the Idaho Mountain Express. The total injury toll included one
fatality, 12 people reported to be in serious or critical condition and 40 more
transported to area hospitals, the Associated Press said.
Ketchum residents Alyson Wilson and Christine Evangelides were at the
retailers show to introduce the debut edition of their new outdoor magazine,
"Elevation." Fortunately, they were away getting lunch when the twister struck.
One of their boothsthey had twowas demolished by the 150-mile-an-hour winds,
and the other was severely damaged, Wilson said in an interview.
As they were driving back to the show after eating, the sky started to
do strange things, she said.
"We saw the sky turn greena wild lime green, almost a neon
color. We saw the clouds start to circle and gather and then the center of the spiral
started to drop toward the ground," Wilson said.
When they returned to their booths in the wake of the ravaging winds
they found rubble and mayhem instead of the orderly rows of displays that had been there
prior to their departure.
"There were [injured] bodies everywhere," Wilson said.
"People were getting worked on. It was total chaos."
If the tornado had arrived an hour earlier or later, however, things
may have been worse, Wilson said. The twister touched down at approximately 1 p.m. while
many of the shows retailers at lunch.
Ketchum resident Allison Akehurst was also at the show. She was there
representing the Ketchum business, A Tail We Could Wag, a company that specializes in
manufacturing dog collars, leashes as well as human accessories. Her business had a booth
that was inside the convention center. Her booth was undamaged.
There was a roll-down door in a corner, no more than 200 feet away from
Akehursts booth, she said. She heard people yelling from the door for others to
hurry into the convention centers relative safety as the winds started to howl. When
the door was finally closed, it exploded inward, Akehurst said in an interview.
"Lots of people were yellingbooths blew over and lots of
stuff blew into the air," she said. "It was very loud. It kind of sounded like a
train really close."
Akehurst said the roof of the building rose and rippled, and there were
a lot of uprooted trees and strewn glass in the parking lots.
"It was definitely an experience and definitely something I
dont want to be in again," she said.
Ketchum-based Smith Sport Optics representatives were also at the show.
Smith executive assistant and Hailey resident Robyn Marrelli, who grew up in Salt Lake
City, said, "We never have tornadoes."
She and over 70 Smith executives from around the worldincluding
about 20 Wood River Valley residentswere in a board meeting at the Wyndham Hotel
when the funnel landed.
All of the windows of the room the Smith representatives were in shot
inward, Marrelli said in an interview. One of the sales representatives cars was
picked up and skewered by a road sign.
"The devastation was absolutely incredible," she said.
Thanks to help from numerous volunteers, Salt Lake City is well on its
way to rebuilding following last Wednesdays devestation.