Utah weather: Salt Lake, Davis and Utah counties have the windiest

If you live in northern Utah, the wind has been hard to ignore for the past few months.

Strong winds helped several large fires across the state, including the Halfway Hill Fire, which swelled over 10,000 acres in July, while gusts of over 60 mph brought dust from the Great Salt Lake dry lake bed raining down on the Wasatch Front.

On Friday, high winds near the Great Salt Lake wreaked havoc on a construction site and collapsed a partially framed home.

On a lighter note, it has made life difficult for anyone trying to date after having their hair done.

‘I feel like my hair has been in a bun or a ponytail pretty much all summer,’ said a Woods Cross teen, who spent a blustery Friday afternoon shopping at Gateway Mall – her hair in a ponytail, of course.

These aren’t just stories — there was in fact abnormally windy conditions in the Salt Lake Valley, according to data from the National Weather Service.

Windblown dust obscures the Salt Lake Valley on June 12, 2022.

Mengshin Lin, Deseret News

Measure the “wind”: By some measures, it was one of the windiest springs and summers the Wasatch Front has seen in years.

According to Monica Traphagan, chief meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City, one of the best ways to measure “general wind” is the number of days when high winds have been observed.

And 2022 takes the cake.

As of Friday July 22, there have been 49 days when the weather station near the airport recorded a five-second gust of over 35 mph, according to National Weather Service data.

That’s the highest for any year since 1998, the first year the figure was tracked at the airport’s weather station.

In 2011, the station documented 44 days with such fast winds as of July 22 of that year, and 41 days in 2019 on that date.

Another metric is to look at the highest sustained gust recorded each month. In May, the Salt Lake City International Airport weather station recorded a 67 mph gust that lasted 5 seconds.

That’s tied for the third-highest five-second gust documented at this weather station since 1998, the oldest that data is available. The second was 71 mph in 2004 and the first was 75 mph in 2006.

And in June this year, the station recorded a five-second gust to 60 mph, which is tied for the seventh highest five-second gust since 1998.

Still, the National Weather Service’s Traphagan warns that it’s incredibly difficult to define a “windy” month.

“We don’t really keep data on ‘average’ wind, or things of that nature, because it can be quite variable from site to site,” she said. “It is therefore difficult to say quantitatively whether there has been more or less wind compared to the last few years.”

It’s nearly impossible to really pinpoint when the windiest summer was in northern Utah, or even in Salt Lake County, Traphagan says.

But using the measurement above, we can say with certainty, yes – you’re not going crazy. It’s been very windy in Salt Lake City.

“It certainly seems to be the case,” Traphagan said.

Earth, wind and fire: High winds can be “a double-edged sword for air quality,” says Ashley Sumner of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.

“When we’re talking about ozone, wind can be a really good thing,” she said. “But there are times when the wind, when not combined with precipitation, produces dust.”

That was the reality for residents along the Wasatch Front Friday afternoon — and likely dozens of afternoons this spring and summer — as an ominous white cloud rose from the Great Salt Lake, blocking the Oquirrh Mountains and settled in Utah, Salt Lake, Davis and Weber counties.

Still, Utahans can thank high winds for the lack of ozone sitting above the valley this summer and blowing smoke from wildfires.

“Less wildfire smoke and less ozone resulted in better air quality compared to last year,” Sumner said.

As well as the wind, it’s also been hard to ignore the record-breaking heat in the Salt Lake Valley this summer – temperatures hit a record 107 degrees on Sunday.

You can thank, at least in part, the wind.

“Conditions that cause you to have windy conditions like this are also often going to result in warmer conditions,” Traphagan said.

Indeed, the weather conditions that cause wind are usually dominated by high pressure, which in summer brings warm weather.

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