Snowfall, dust storms and a tornado kick off October with extreme weather across Arizona.
Arizona counties were subject to multiple flash flood and dust storm warnings on Monday that could spread to the rest of the the week. 40,000 power outages were reported in the Phoenix metro area following the storms, according to APS and Salt River Project.
Visibility was plagued by raging dust storms and many took to social media to share their experience.
Peaks from San Francisco to Flagstaff even received snowfall that blanketed the mountain range.
The weather didn’t stop there.
The National Weather Service’s Flagstaff office confirmed a tornado touched down around 1:30 p.m. Monday in the Junipine Estates, a rural community just north of Williams.
The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office also confirmed that between eight and 10 homes were damaged as a result.
The Arizona Public Service even reported up to 2,000 power outages in parts of Yavapai County, south of the tornado.
The tornado was confirmed as an EF-1 tornado calling it “weak”.
Tornado? In Arizona? How weird is that?
Tornadoes in Arizona are rare, but not unheard of, here. The Grand Canyon State has an average of five per year.
Texas, on the other hand, averages the most of any state, with about 155 tornado touchdowns each year.
Why so little?
“A lot of times they’re flagged in what we call our transition season.” Brian Klimowski, meteorologist in charge of the Flagstaff National Weather Service, told The Arizona Republic.
The lack of tornadoes in Arizona mostly comes down to the lack of key weather conditions needed to produce them. Warm air near the surface and cooler dry air aloft combined with a change in wind speed and/or direction with altitude.
“When wind shear or the change in direction and speed of wind that will rise through the atmosphere interacts with the remaining monsoon moisture, you can often develop strong thunderstorms, but strong rotating thunderstorms. We let’s call them supercell thunderstorms. These are the types of storms that can cause tornadoes.” said Klimowski.
Notably, in 2010, Arizona set a record for the “most tornadoes ever recorded in a single event west of the Continental Division”, with 11 tornadoes recorded on the morning of October 6, 2010.
In 2019, the Phoenix area experienced seven tornadoes in early January, the most in the area since 1972.
How Bad Do Arizona Twisters Get?
Tornadoes in Arizona are relatively weak. Typically, Arizona tornadoes will typically occur between an EF-0 (40-72 MPH) and an EF-1 (73-112MPH).
However, the strongest and most destructive tornado in Arizona history occurred in 1972. The tornado was predicted as an EF-2 and swept through parts of Scottsdale, Paradise Valley and parts of the east of Phoenix.
The storm made headlines in the Republic at the time. Over 200 homes were destroyed in Paradise Valley alone. Along with it, the tornado also caused severe damage to Arizona’s power lines as well as canals, prompting APS officials to say it was the most severe damage they had ever suffered at the time.
Initially, Scottsdale officials estimated the damage at around $46 million, but later reassessed and lowered the number to around $25 million.
Climate change? Probably not.
“It’s very difficult to make connections like this with just one event.” said Klimowski. “As for severe weather, because it’s so rare here, especially tornado storms, it’s very difficult to link them to signals of climate change.”
As Arizona enters this transitional season, October is sure to bring more weather surprises.
Contact breaking news reporter Kye Graves at [email protected] or on Twitter @kyegraves