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Strong winds send tree crashing into St. George home

ST. GEORGE, Utah – Strong winds toppled a 60-year-old tree during an afternoon storm Thursday; the tree damaged a home, but, luckily, no one was home.

The National Weather Service recorded wind speeds at 36 miles per hour around 1:30 in the afternoon, with 49 mile an hour gusts. The main part of the tree fell in the yard of the home on 200 West, just scraping the neighbors, but some large branches went through the roof.

Homeowner Rayne Garner said his family wasn’t home at the time, but he wasn’t surprised when a neighbor called to give him the news.

“He never calls me,” Garner said. “So once I got that call from him, he’s like, ‘oh, so you haven’t heard anything yet?’ and I knew what it was.”

Garner said the majority of the damage to his house happened on the outside with the branches scraping the roof and breaking some trim. Only one branch caused major damage to the inside.

1 in 4 Utah high school students report abuse from dating partner

SALT LAKE CITY — New data from the Utah Department of Health indicates that one in four Utah high school students reported that they were emotionally, verbally, physically or sexually abused by a dating partner.

The data comes from the Youth Risk Behavior Alliance Survey, and on Thursday, Katie McMinn, who is the violence prevention specialist at the Utah Department of Health, came to the FOX 13 News studio to discuss the issue and the ways to reduce abuse.

See the video above for her comments.

Lawmakers, LGBT community discuss anti-discrimination legislation

SALT LAKE CITY — Hundreds from the LGBT community showed up to the State Capitol Wednesday for a meeting with lawmakers. They want SB 100, a bill which would provide protection in housing and employment for LGBT Utahns, revived.

But will they get it? It seems unlikely this legislative session.

“I was born Randall Heller, but I stand before you today as Rachel Heller, the person I’ve always known myself to be,” said Rachel Heller, just one of many LGBT Utahns sharing personal, passionate stories about what life is like in Utah.

“I didn’t choose to have a transgender child but I have chosen to love and support Grayson,” said one Mormon mother who is asking lawmakers to support equal protection in housing and employment.

But SB 100 fell flat on its face.

LDS Church officials issue letter encouraging Utahns to participate in political process

SALT LAKE CITY – The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sent out a letter recently and asked that it be read in all LDS congregations in Utah, and the letter encourages people to participate in the political process.

A similar letter was sent out in 2012, and according to a press release from the LDS Church, that letter resulted in a significant increase in caucus participation in the state.

The letter is reproduced in its entirety below:

Caucus meetings will be held this year in preparation for primary and general elections in Utah. These precinct caucus meetings are a grassroots level of political involvement in Utah and are best served by a broad representation of Utah citizens. Those who attend play a critical role in selecting candidates for public office.

Zion National Park to close climbing routes while raptors claim their territory

ZION NATIONAL PARK – Rock climbing in many areas of Zion National Park will close for the spring next week in order to give the native Peregrine Falcons time to build their summer homes.

They’re known for being one of the fastest birds on earth. The falcons nest in the towering cliffs of the park and can be found during the spring and summer months,  but they need their space.

Friday, the park announced they’ll close rock climbing in 13 different areas starting March 1, so they can keep track of the falcon population.

“They’re still in recovery from the endangered species status,” said Zion National Park wildlife biologist Cassie Walters. “So we monitor sites for US Fish and Wildlife Service, so that they can review the data.”

Complaint claims Count My Vote collected signatures in violation of the law

SALT LAKE CITY — Individuals in Utah who are seeking to make changes to the caucus system have been working to collect signatures for their petition, but questions have arisen regarding the validity of some signatures.

Count My Vote is a Utah group who wants to do away with Utah’s caucus system, which is the method political parties use to select their candidates for office.

Protect Our Neighborhood Elections, a group opposing Count My Vote’s efforts, filed a complaint Friday with the Lt. Governor’s Office, alleging that some of the signatures collected by Count My Vote violate the law and that those signatures should not count.

“They’re using deceit and lying to pass their initiative,” said Kris Kimball, Co-Chair of Protect Our Neighborhood Elections.

The complaint outlines four accusations, which include the following:

Utah’s housing boom in full swing

SALT LAKE CITY — If you are in the market to sell or buy a house, now’s the time to do it.

According to the Utah Housing Corporation, 2013’s home sales numbers hit record highs, bringing the real estate market close to the levels seen in 2007 before the financial crisis.

“I’m used to selling a home in 90 days or less, not 3 weeks or less,” said Salt Lake Realtor Rachel Green.

Utah’s housing boom is in full swing. According to the Utah Housing Corporation, 2013 saw a 16 percent home sales increase from the year before.

Grant S. Whitaker, President and CEO of Utah Housing Corporation, described the market conditions.

“There are single family, there are condominiums, there are existing homes, and newly constructed homes,” he said. “The preponderance is for single family detached homes and the existing market as well.”

FOX 13 News spoke with Alyssa Firszt, who sold her home in November.