Gustnado spotted at mobile home park damaged by storm

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by Catherine Holland

Video report by Tess Rafols

Posted on May 10, 2012 at 6:42 AM

Updated Thursday, May 10 at 9:22 AM

Map: Ironwood and Germann roads

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SAN TAN VALLEY, Ariz. -- Residents of a San Tan Valley mobile-home park are in clean-up mode after a gustnado  and perhaps a microburst generated by a strong spring storm system whipped through the area Wednesday evening.

At least 20 homes in the Pheasant Valley Mobile Home Park near Ironwood and Germann roads were damaged, some of them severely.

The park is home to many snowbirds so few residents -- only six or so -- were home when the storm hit.

While one home looked like tornado had hit it, it was more likely in the path of a possible microburst. The storm ripped off the roof first before shredding the rest of the home.

"The whole place just went over," Dave Acre said. He and his wife were inside their home when Mother Nature unleashed her rage.

Rural Metro firefighters said heavy winds swept away debris from the mobile-home park. Bits and pieces were found as much as a quarter mile away.

Members of the National Weather Service, including the meteorologist in charge, were headed to the site to survey the damage for themselves.

Residents said they saw something that looked like a funnel cloud.

Many of them thought it might have been a tornado, but what they actually saw was a gustnado, which is a low-level rotating cloud -- a vortex that spins up ahead of a gust front. A gustnado does not come down from clouds like a tornado does nor does it carry the massive power of a tornado.

Despite the extensive damage at the mobile-home park from the microburst, no injuries were reported.

People throughout Phoenix and surrounding areas said they were surprised by the intensity of the storm even though forecasters had said there was a slight change of it developing.

"That's the reality of these Arizona storms," 3TV Meteorologist April Warnecke explained. "We have just a slight chance, but when they do hit, they can be very strong."

>>> Get the latest forecast for your neighborhood

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