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Tax Day Storm Stands Out

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Old Main on the Utah State University campus saw around 4 inches of snow by midday Wednesday.

The storm that bounded into Utah Tuesday stands out as an epic weather event for a number of reasons.

Wind gusts topped 60 miles an hour at dozens of Utah locations. Blowing dust pushed air-pollution measurements into the hazardous range. And temperatures plummeted 29 degrees between afternoon and evening.

Jim Steenburgh, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Utah, applauds the tempest.

“The storm has exceeded my expectations,” he says. “Being a meteorologist, I generally get excited about storms like this, and this is pretty much as good as it gets.”

Steenburgh says this one tracks closely with the Tax Day Storm of 2002 in terms of rapid mercury drops and wind trends. But this year’s Tax Day storm began with surprising bluster, including a 92 mph gust in Parley’s Canyon.

It was this season’s biggest single snowstorm of the season, but Utah’s water watchers said the one-plus inch of precipitation won’t make up for Utah’s dry, record-hot winter.

“This storm is kind of a nice thing to have, but it’s too little too late,” says Brian McInerney, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service.

Going into this week’s storm, the Salt Lake International Airport had logged less than half of precipitation normally expected since the water year began in October. McInerney says we’d need one like it every day to through the end of April to catch up.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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