Gov. Herbert praises volunteers as tornado cleanup continues in Weber County

Posted at 7:33 PM, Sep 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-24 00:51:58-04

WASHINGTON TERRACE, Utah -- More than 400 volunteers from across the state came to Washington Terrace to help residents clean up after a tornado hit the area.

The National Weather Service in Salt Lake City stated Friday the tornado touched down first in Riverdale Thursday around 3:45 p.m. before moving through Washington Terrace, where wind speeds reached as high as 110 mph. The tornado also impacted South Ogden before dissipating, and at this point it is rated an EF1.

Gov. Gary Herbert toured the damage in Washington Terrace Friday, where a dozen homes are uninhabitable and dozens of others are damaged to a lesser extent. Herbert said he was impressed by the volunteer spirit of the Beehive State.

“I came here expecting to see a lot of debris, you know, kind of the war zone we’ve seen in other times with similar storms, and I come here and it’s mostly all cleaned up, and so it just tells me that the people in charge here are really doing good things," Herbert said.

Weber County said they assigned volunteers to different areas to help with cleanup.

The community support in the aftermath is exactly what those who lost everything, needed.

"We have nothing," said a teary-eyed Gaelynn Sewell. "We have what we have on our back right here, and that's it."

She lives in one of the houses hit by the tornado. Some of those homes, the county said, were still unsafe to enter on Friday.

"A lot of the homes are so severely damaged, that they could collapse at any time," said Lieutenant Nate Hutchinson with the Weber County Sheriff's Office.

By the end of Friday, a lot of the debris had been removed, and windows and roofs open to the air were boarded up. According to a press release from the Weber County Sheriff's Office, the areas of Washington Terrace that were closed have all been opened again and the hardest hit areas have been cleared of safety issues.

Crews were still out late Friday night working on power poles. Cleanup efforts will pick up again Saturday, and Weber County said it'll continue for days.

"What I'm thinking about is the rough road ahead for the next little while, but it'll be okay," Sewell said. "We'll make due."

Houses that are severely damaged have been marked by the city building inspector, and residents in those homes are advised to follow the guidelines posted on their home. Sheriff's deputies are making extra patrols in the areas with damaged homes, and residents are encouraged to report any suspicious activity to dispatch by calling 801-395-8221.

Volunteers from all over the state came to assist with clearing debris, repairing damage or to donate food and clothing. Statewide, the Utah Red Cross said they've assisted 36 families in cleaning up and recovering after the storms.

See the 360-degree images below for a look at the aftermath of the tornado in Washington Terrace.