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Rigby-area microburst fells historic trees, kills sheep and causes extensive damage

An older truck was damaged by a falling tree in Lorenzo during an intense microburst Friday. | Courtesy Jill Harris via NWS
RIGBY — Hundreds of trees fell, approximately a dozen vehicles were damaged, 20 sheep were killed, and thousands of Rocky Mountain Power customers lost electricity in a strong microburst that hit Jefferson County at about 5:30 p.m. Friday evening.
“We had a severe thunderstorm that crossed over the Menan Buttes, Menan, Annis, the city of Rigby and on out toward Ririe,” Jefferson County Emergency Manager Rebecca Squires said. “We experienced significant damage in the form of large trees toppled and broken off, trampolines and garbage cans, you know, anything that wasn’t anchored was removed from property. We had trees on power lines, and widespread power outages because of the trees on the lines.”
The sheep that perished were seeking shelter under a tree when it toppled over.

Twenty sheep died after a large tree, which they were huddled underneath, fell on top of them. | Courtesy Kevin Walker
No casualties or injuries were reported during the storm, although a woman was hurt Saturday morning when a tree branch fell on her head during cleanup efforts, Squires said.
Crews worked throughout the night to clear tree debris from roadways as Rocky Mountain Power labored to restore electricity to its customers. The Pocatello office of the National Weather Service reported that as many as 10,000 customers were affected, including individuals and businesses in Madison County.
Carter MacKay, a meteorologist for Jefferson County, reported, “We are expecting it to be a straight line wind event. Again, there was the potential signature on radar that we were tracking at the time that would give some evidence to some tornadic circulation with that supercell as it was working over that area. But we will be sending a storm survey team up there later today to get some more increased confidence on that.”
Wind gusts of 40 to 60 miles per hour were reported in the desert.
“Although we didn’t see that wind further east where we saw most of the damage reported, we are expecting that we at least see the potential for what we like to call a wet microburst in that region,” MacKay said.
A microburst forms as a thunderstorm develops when a “strong updraft suspends a lot of the moisture with it, and then it all comes down at once,” MacKay explained. “… The core of the storm plummets to the ground. As it hits the ground and spreads out in all directions, the location of where the microburst first hits the ground experiences the highest wind and greatest damage.”
The National Weather Service received reports of “half an inch to six-tenths of an inch of rain falling in less than 30 minutes.”
Squires said that the winds came from the north, whereas most strong winds come from the south, and the trees weren’t “hardened” to the weather.

Numerous historic trees toppled throughout Jefferson County. | Courtesy Carl Anderson
Jefferson County has not declared a disaster for the storm.
“There are programs out there that can help homes, businesses and agriculture — … folks like that who are experiencing catastrophic loss,” Squires said, but first the county must collect the data on total damages to qualify for those programs.
Residents who experienced damage to homes, sheds, greenhouses or other property are encouraged to fill out this quick survey to report damages.
Additionally, affected property owners impacted by the storm should contact the Jefferson County assessor’s office as soon as possible.
“If somebody’s home or property was damaged, they can actually appeal the value of that property with the assessor’s office to have that property value reduced so that their property taxes are less,” Squires said.
Appeals must be submitted by the fourth Monday in June to be considered.

The severe thunderstorm is photographed near 4200 East on 540 North in the Rigby area. | Courtesy Lisa Mason via NWS
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