WEATHER

Neighborhoods, cemeteries feel impact of hurricane force winds on old-growth trees

Sep 8, 2020, 5:05 PM | Updated: 5:06 pm

FILE: High winds toppled trees that had stood for decades at the Ft. Douglas Post Cemetery, damagin...

FILE: In 2020, high winds toppled trees that had stood for decades at the Ft. Douglas Post Cemetery, damaging headstones, fences and the surrounding ground. (Marc Giauque)

(Marc Giauque)

SALT LAKE CITY — George Watanabe said he was rattled when he arrived at the Fort Douglas Post Cemetery Tuesday morning, near the University of Utah and saw the fate of old-growth trees.  “To see these trees that are over 100 years old, people that have been buried over 150 years ago, and to see the devastation here was just shocking,” he said. 

Strong wind-gusts Monday night and Tuesday morning brought down numerous large trees. Where they landed, some grave markers were smashed as were fences and monuments.  Where they were uprooted, the ground near the actual graves was exposed. 

Cemeteries are sacred

Watanabe served in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. Today he is the contractor, charged with caring for the grounds at the cemetery.

“Many of us who are citizens of this country, who have been to a veteran’s cemetery, whether in Europe, or the Pacific, or here in the United States, veteran’s cemeteries are sacred places,” Watanabe said. 

The winds continued to howl as Watanabe and his team began to assess the damage to old-growth trees.  

Huddling in the basement

A few blocks to the southwest, people who live around the Nibley Park Golf Course were equally surprised, and a bit unsettled by the power of the winds.  Trees and branches filled the fairways at the course.  Next door, Bob Waters and his family huddled in the sub-basement of their home during the worst of the storm. “The wind gusts were rather extreme. They were punching into the side of the house,” said Walters.  He said they listened as the wind eventually began peeling shingles from the roof. And they watched as they flew through the back yard. 

Trees take the brunt

Not far away, at Fitts Park in South Salt Lake, barriers were put up at park entrances, old and new trees were uprooted, one landing on a fence near the playground. 

Fitts Park in South Salt Lake was closed Tuesday morning, as crews assessed the damage from high winds. Just to the west of the park, a large spruce tree fell, nearly swallowing an entire car.  

 

A sub-compact car was smashed after winds brought down a spruce tree onto the street in South Salt Lake.

There were similar scenes throughout the area. Many streets were closed Tuesday morning, as police guarded areas where downed power lines lay on the ground.  

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Neighborhoods, cemeteries feel impact of hurricane force winds on old-growth trees