SALT LAKE CITY — 200 service members with the Utah National Guard began assisting with the state's cleanup efforts Friday after hurricane-strength winds caused significant damage in four counties earlier this week.
The group of National Guard members started by meeting in the Kaysville City Cemetery to pick up the broken branches scattered across the lawn.
Barbara Jacobs described the Utah National Guard as "wonderful." She and her husband Lamont Jacobs stopped by the cemetery to see if the graves of their family members were damaged. Their son, Michael Joseph Jacobs, was 19 years old in 1978 when he died in a car accident.
"That big tree is right over where our graves are," Barbara Jacobs said. "(We are) very lucky! It could have fallen a few feet to the north, and probably those graves would've been gone."
“The Utah National Guard likes to focus on neighbors helping neighbors," said Captain Jacob Stephenson. "These soldiers have a great sense of patriotism, and it feels good on this somber day to be out helping our friends and our communities."
The Guard will be in four counties Friday and Saturday: Cache, Weber, Davis and Salt Lake.
"We’re going to try and spread out to as many towns that need help as we can right here in this area in the Davis County area we’re going to try and help out the surrounding cities,” said Stephenson.
Members of the Guard will be chopping up tree branches and picking up debris and broken branches in neighborhoods hit by the storm.
The downslope wind event, which peaked Tuesday morning, brought down countless trees, caused widespread power outages, utility water breaks, gas leaks, and damage to homes, vehicles and businesses.
“We’re sending out some chainsaw crews as well as they have a wood chipper so they’re gonna go out and clear as much of that knocked over debris as they can,” said Stephenson.
After finishing up at the cemetery, the Guard moved on to the next neighborhood in need.
"Anytime I see community with damage, it makes me feel sad but at the same time being a part of the national guard and having that neighbors helping neighbors mentality and always being ready kind of gives me a sense of joy and a sense of commitment to the mission we have today,” said Stephenson.
The cleanup efforts are expected to last through Monday.
“Part of the National Guard’s mission is to respond locally and statewide in support of government agencies for natural disasters, hazmat incidents, and civil emergencies,” said Gov. Gary Herbert in a news release. “I’m extremely thankful for the Utah Guard and the valuable role they will play in helping the state clean up and move forward. We salute them and thank them for the continued support and service they have rendered to all Utahns.”