Buried Under Balls of Rolling Vines, Utah Towns Face 'Tumble-mageddon'

Mar 6, 2024

The same series of severe storms that dumped feet of snow on California’s Sierra Nevada mountains over the weekend heaped a new problem around many towns in Utah. They’re dealing with mounds of tumbleweeds.    

“We’ve had a few tumbleweeds but nothing like this,” John Young of South Jordan, Utah told KSL TV. “It’s (really) crazy.”

Young was among many northern Utah residents who woke Saturday to find their homes covered by walls of invasive Russian thistle. It's a plant known commonly as “tumbleweed.” It grows in spheres of tightly-packed vines. When the plant is ready to reproduce, the vines dry out. This allows the wind to snap them free. The wind can then roll the whole ball away. The plant drops seeds as it tumbles along.    

Normally, Utah residents see a few tumbleweeds a day. But heavy winter rains yielded a bumper crop this year. And 65 MPH winds from Sunday’s storm roiled up waves of tumbleweed. They swamped South Jordan, Eagle Mountain, and other small towns. Some found themselves having to use garden tools to clear 10-foot-high piles of the stiff, scratchy vines. 

“Luckily, it’s something we can handle,” Rachel Van Cleave, South Jordan’s communications manager, told The Guardian. “This is not our first tumble-mageddon.”

South Jordan cleanup crews used bulldozers to shove the intrusive walls o’ weeds out of the way.  Residents were advised to pile the prickly plants into dumpsters. It was all in an effort to make their particular part of the West look a little less wild. In response, one weed-weary citizen posted to Facebook, “Thank you for being the city we love to live in!”    

Reflect: We’re often told to think positively about challenging situations. How might you put a positive spin on having tumbleweeds overrun your town?

Photo from Reuters.

The word “swamped” is used in the fourth paragraph as a/an _______. (Common Core RI.5.4; RI.6.4)
a. noun
b. verb
c. adjective
d. adverb
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