NWS confirms weak tornado hit Mesa

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

MESA, Ariz. -- The National Weather Service has confirmed a weak tornado hit Mesa on Saturday.

It was reported at 12:45 p.m. at the Palm Cove Apartments on Main Street near Alma School Road.

The National Weather Service released a detailed report Monday but gave the tornado a preliminary rating of EF-0, meaning it had winds of 65 to 85 mph.

The weather service said the tornado was about 10 to 20 feet wide and touched down in a nearby park before skipping through the apartment complex.

Several residents reported seeing the tornado and a flying hot tub. The weather service said the empty hot tub was moved 1,300 feet.

The tornado also ripped shingles off the roof and uprooted several large trees.

"I thought a freight train drove across the roof," said Jaynessa Campbell, who lives in the complex. "The wind knocked the door and the door flew open."

A child said he was playing outside his apartment when he saw the tornado. He said he started running and felt like he was being lifted off the ground.

After receiving several reports of a possible tornado, the weather service visited the area to investigate.

"Very rare here in central Arizona, certainly," said National Weather Service spokesman Ken Waters. "Maybe every five years or so we might get one report, but it was a pretty exceptional storm. Radar indication showed, unquestionably, a signature of rotational winds in that storm."

While tornadoes are rare in metro Phoenix, several have been reported in Arizona just in the past few years.

Before Saturday, the most recent tornado reported in the state was in July 2013 in Winslow. It touched down briefly but no damage was reported.

The state saw three tornadoes in 2011. A tornado was reported in Snowflake in July and another touched down in Holbrook in September. Neither event resulted in any damage.

A tornado did cause significant damage, however, when it hit Arizona Snowbowl ski resort in September 2011. It was rated an EF-2, which is characterized by wind gusts between 111 to 135 mph. Arizona has never reported a tornado stronger than an EF-2.

In 2010, 16 tornadoes were confirmed in Arizona, with all but two occurring in the Flagstaff area.

The most recent tornado reported in the Phoenix metro area was at Desert Ridge Marketplace in January 2010. While the weather service does not have a rating for that tornado, significant damage was reported.

Also in 2010, one person was injured after an EF-1 tornado hit near Wintersburg in July.

While only Mesa reported a tornado during the weekend storm system, other parts of the Valley still saw plenty of damage from wind gusts, hail and flooding.

A wash in Cave Creek overflowed after seeing as much as 2 inches of rain.

While there have been no reports of weather-related injuries, the storm led to power outages for more than 2,000 people in central Phoenix.

Several events also became weather casualties Saturday, including two spring training games and a NASCAR Nationwide Series race that was cut short.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Valley storm damages buildings, uproots trees