Utah Tumbles Under Massive Weed Infestation 

Maciej Bledowski / shutterstock.com
Maciej Bledowski / shutterstock.com

Tumbleweeds, the iconic symbols of the American West, have been blowing through towns across the western United States, leading to disruptions and even burying houses and cars. South Jordan, Utah, recently experienced a tumble-geddon, an invasion of tumbleweeds that left residents grappling with prickly intruders.  

These invasive plants piled up to ten feet high in some places, blocking roads, surrounding houses, and even burying cars. Videos shared online depict massive amounts of tumbleweeds swarming parts of Utah, stacking several feet high around homes. Some of the piles reached the second-story windows of homes in the affected areas. 

The situation prompted surreal scenes as residents plowed through the weeds with hoes and shovels before city workers arrived with garbage trucks and dumpsters to clean up. 

South Jordan Communications Manager Rachel Van Cleave assured the community they could handle the challenge, emphasizing that this wasn’t their first encounter with tumbleweeds. However, this recent event was unprecedented, leaving many residents astounded. 

“It was quite a sight to see. They just rolled right into a lot of our neighborhoods, blocking homes, their front doors, and their garages, ten and maybe even up to 15 feet high,” Van Cleave said in an interview. 

Interestingly, this isn’t the first time tumbleweed has wreaked havoc. In 2020, Washington state saw unlucky drivers trapped under a glut of 15-foot tumbleweed piles, leading authorities to close a highway in both directions. Similarly, in 2018, California faced a tumbleweed takeover that shut down an entire town. Back in 2016, an Australian town experienced an inundation of a type of tumbleweed known as “hairy panic.” 

Tumbleweeds often roll across dry, open landscapes like prairies. When these plants mature, they break off from their roots and dry out, forming rounded tangles of branches. Wind plays a significant role in their movement, helping them detach cleanly and roll along the ground, scattering seeds. These well-protected seeds can sprout into new plants when they get enough moisture.  

They’re not just a nuisance for businesses and residents who must clean them up but also an environmental menace. According to the Natural History Museum of London, tumbleweeds are an invasive plant species originating from Europe and eastern Asia, known as Russian thistle.  

Invasive plants like these spread rapidly, outcompeting native plants for vital resources and threatening ecosystems. Furthermore, as noted by the Natural History Museum, these troublesome weeds heighten the risk of wildfires due to their highly flammable and dry nature. They also have the potential to block waterways and aqueducts, and they act as hosts for disease-carrying insects that can hinder plant growth. 

Throughout film history, tumbleweeds have become famous symbols of barren, desolate places. They are often seen rolling past in scenes with a dry, eerie wind. But the winds experienced in Utah were far from a movie scene. 

According to ABC4, fierce winds exceeding 70 and 80 mph wreaked havoc on city infrastructure, toppling trees and causing road damage across Utah. Adding to the chaos, South Jordan experienced snowfall just hours after tumbleweeds swept through the city, as a cold front intensified the severe weather conditions. 

City workers and local volunteers quickly sprang into action as tumbleweed accumulated. Utah dedicated almost 130 hours of city employee time to assist residents with cleanup efforts. To manage the influx of tumbleweed, crews began filling four 15-yard dumpsters and three 30-yard dumpsters. These dumpsters have been emptied 13 times and counting. Despite ongoing efforts, the cleanup remains a challenge.  

Some residents are cashing in on the tumbleweed invasion. A growing market for tumbleweed has emerged on popular platforms such as eBay, Etsy, Instagram, and Facebook. Some sellers offer customized tumbleweed art, appealing to interior designers and homeowners seeking unique decor options. The pieces fetch between $100 to $250 each, depending on their size, and are sought after by a diverse clientele, including urban dwellers, prop managers for Western films, and owners of decor shops. 

But the cleanup will be costly. While specific cost figures aren’t available, the cleanup effort requires significant resources, including manpower, equipment, and disposal services. The city’s priority is to restore normalcy for affected residents amidst this unexpected “tumble-geddon.” 

For now, it’s like a unique blend of Western and horror movies, with the heroic cowboys facing off against a mob of thorny, beach-ball-sized menaces.