Swept Away--and Back Again When planner Jayne Abbot saw the lights flicker during a lunch break during her association's annual board meeting in Salt Lake City on August 11, she thought nothing of it. That is, she says, "Until someone stuck his head in the door and said 'You better come take a look at this.'"
"This" turned out to be an F2 tornado, whose winds in excess of 110 miles per hour ripped apart chunks of the downtown convention area, killing a man setting up booths in an an outdoor pavilion tent at the Salt Lake Palace. The twister destroyed the 85,000-square-foot pavilion and damaged a companion tent. They had been erected to house 333 overflow exhibitors for Outdoor Retailer magazine's Summer Market, which was scheduled to open the next day. The convention center, which housed the rest of the exhibitors, lost only a few roof tiles.
Darrell Denny, executive vice president/group president with the show's sponsor Miller Freeman, estimates that there were 400 to 600 people setting up booths in the pavilions when the tornado hit, killing Allen Grandy and injuring dozens of others. The tragedy could have been much worse. "We're thankful that at least it didn't happen the next day, when there would have been thousands of people out there," says Jayne Abbot, the special events coordinator for American Whitewater, a non-profit group based in Washington, D.C.
"When we heard the word 'tornado,' we all just said, 'What?' That just doesn't happen here," Abbot recalls. "But this time it did. Friends of mine who were in the tent ran to the nearest tree and just held on as their feet flew out from under them and the wind whipped them around," she says. "Everyone was really shaken up, and some of the smaller companies out there lost everything."