PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- The Phoenix area was under siege early Friday morning when not one, not two, but three tornadoes swept through, the National Weather Service (NWS) confirmed Friday evening, roughly 15 hours after the fact.
The first confirmed tornado was in the area of Williams Field Road and the Loop 202 Santan Freeway. The second was in the Queen Creek area. The third was in the north Phoenix/Paradise Valley area. The north Phoenix tornado was the first to touch down just before 4 a.m.; the East Valley ones came about 40 to 50 minutes later.
The twisters took out massive trees and poles and left paths of debris and destruction behind.
At Third Street and Thunderbird Road, trees that were nearly 20-feet tall were ripped down, along with their root and irrigation systems. Some of those trees fell on homes and fences.
The storms left a broad swath of damage from north Phoenix to parts of the East Valley.
NWS was swamped Friday, spending the day surveying damage around the Valley. The agency cited both radar and storm damage in its reports.
“This is tornadic damage because we’re seeing it in a number of locations, kind of skipping along through this area of north Phoenix and north Scottsdale,” said Ken Waters with NWS.
He said crews stopped at 10 different locations to collect data. They were looking at the direction in which the trees fell, and measuring the diameter of trunks that were yanked out of the ground. In north Phoenix, the NWS notes that trees with a trunk diameter of up to three feet were uprooted.
NWS sent out phone alerts warning residents about the tornado at 4 a.m. in an effort to keep everyone safe.
“Actually, it led us to issue a couple of very rare tornado warnings,” said Waters. “It could save your life to tell you to seek cover at that time.”
Tornadoes are measured by the EF Scale, which looks at wind damage. The scale runs from EF0, which causes light damage with winds between and 65 and 85 mph, through EF6, which caused massive damage with winds in excess of 200 mph.
According to the NSW report, the north Phoenix tornado was an estimated EF1, which causes moderate damage with winds between 86 and 110 mph. Estimate for the East Valley tornadoes were not immediately available.
This is second time Arizona has seen tornadoes this year. In September, a confirmed tornado was caught on camera in the New River area. That tornado was on the ground for about minutes shortly after noon.
[RAW VIDEO: Tornado caught on camera near New River, Arizona]
[APP USERS: Click here for tornado map]