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Tornado Damages Delta Center

A freak tornado that hit downtown Salt Lake on Wednesday left the Delta Center with holes in the roof and broken windows on the exterior.

The 19,911-seat arena, home of the NBA's Utah Jazz and the WNBA's Utah Starzz, was one of the first buildings damaged when the twister struck about 12:45 p.m. MDT.

No immediate damage estimate was available, nor did officials determine if there was major structural damage.

However, Friday night's WNBA game between the Starzz and the Phoenix Mercury was moved to the Dee Events Center on the Weber State campus in Ogden, 33 miles north of Salt Lake City.

"It would be premature to say when we'll have another event at the Delta Center," said Evan Silverman, a spokesman for the Jazz.

Amateur video showed power transformers exploding as the twister struck the Delta Center. A witness, Robert Stock of Toronto, described the roof coming off "like an orange peel."

The roof appeared to be damaged in long strips, mostly on the southwest side of the building. Large vinyl sheets hung over the side, flapping in the breeze about 20 minutes later.

"The roof is badly damaged," Silverman said. "There are patchy holes in it, not one huge hole. There are spots in the southwest corner where you can see the sky."

Delta Center vice president Brent Allenbach said the other significant damage was several shattered window panels on the arena's north side.

"There's a lot of glass hanging there. Crews are taking it down from the most hazardous areas," Allenbach said.

The building shook when the twister hit. With rain falling into the arena, employees scrambled to cover the basketball floor with a large plastic sheet and protective plywood.

"Some Delta Center maintenance workers risked their safety to cover the floor before we really knew what was going on," Silverman said.

The Jumbotron scoreboard that hangs above the court was lowered to a few feet above the floor.

"It was only a precaution," Allenbach said. "I don't see it happening, but if it were to come down at least it wouldn't fall very far."

In the arena's lower parking lot and an adjacent employee parking lot, virtually every vehicle had its windows blown out. Many vehicles also were dented by flying debris.

"Including my new truck," Allenbach said.

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