Tornado hits Mesa in rare weather event


by Jason Volentine

Bio | Email | Follow: @jasonvolentine

Posted on March 4, 2014 at 7:06 AM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 4 at 7:20 AM

Map: Mesa tornado

View larger map

MESA, Ariz. -- A tornado touched down in Mesa over the weekend, something Valley weather experts said is a very rare occurrence for the area.

The National Weather Service in Phoenix confirmed the tornado on Sunday, one day after strong thunderstorms made their way through eastern parts of the Valley.

Debris that included down trees and an empty hot tub tossed over a brick wall confirmed rotating winds consistent with an EF0 strength tornado with speeds up to 85 mph.

"The EF Scale, which became operational on February 1, 2007, is used to assign a tornado a 'rating' based on estimated wind speeds and related damage," explains the NWS website.

 While Arizona sees up to 10 tornadoes per year, almost all of them are in the northeastern part of the state.

The last twister to hit the Valley was four years ago according to NWS experts. On average, the NWS told 3TV the Valley only sees one tornado every five to 10 years – the strongest on record being an EF1 which carries winds up to 110 mph.

The experts said straight-line winds from microburst activity during the monsoon season can produce damage just as severe as, or even more so than weak tornadoes.

The strongest tornado in Arizona history, according to the NWS, was an EF3 (winds of 136-165 mph) twister in the Prescott area.