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The Lonely Tornado

July 17, 2013

Every state, even Hawaii, Alaska and desert Arizona can have tornadoes.

Credit: NOAA
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It was the last thing I expected to see while driving through the Arizona deserta tornado. YIKES!

A small part of me would like to be a storm chaser and zoom through the plains chasing the twisters. This is very different from minding your own business in a desert and finding the twister chasing you!

My husband and I were crossing Arizona after a business trip. Since it is monsoon season, it was a lot wetter than you would imagine.

Starting around June 15, the monsoon season begins in the Southwestern US. Seasonal winds begin to blow from the south or southeast. They bring thunderstorms and welcome rain.

In summer, the Southwest deserts have monsoon thunderstorms. NOAA

We were driving through a thunderstorm when my husband looked towards the darkest part of the sky and announced, “There’s a tornado!” He had been in the Navy and a couple of colorful terms followed.

Now I entered the debate. “We’re in a desert. You must be seeing virga.” Virga are sheets of rain that stretch down from clouds but don’t reach the ground. They are grey and can look a bit like tornadoes.

My husband is stubborn.  “It’s a tornado.” He continued to drive away from the interesting weather phenomenon.

It was definitely spinning. “Maybe it’s a dust devil. They’re common in the desert.” But no, the weather was too wet and the spinning twister was dropping from the cloud rather than rising up. Tornadoes do form in Arizona (they form in every state—even Alaska and Hawaii have had twisters) but desert twisters are rare.

Sometimes virga (rain that doesn’t reach the ground) can look like developing twisters. NOAA

The storm itself seemed puzzled. A spinning rope would drop from the thundercloud, debris would fly and then it would weaken, rise or even dissolve. At one time, there was one tornado on the ground and three others that looked like they were trying to form.

The whole event may have lasted only fifteen minutes, with my sensible husband driving away from the storm and the crazy weather lady studying the distant event with great interest.

It’s nice someone in our family has common sense. But while it lasted, it was fascinating to watch a small and very lost tornado thunder through Arizona.

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Evelyn Browning Garriss, historical climatologist, blogger, writer for The Old Farmer's Almanac, and editor of The Browning Newsletter, has advised farmers, businesses, and investors worldwide on upcoming climate events and their economic and social impact for the past 21 years.

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Comments

Tornados can happen anywhere.

By ~ Sil in Corea

Tornados can happen anywhere. One came tearing through a wooded lot near our house, in the state of Maine. Trees were broken off and uprooted all over the path of the twister. It looked as if giants had been playing "Pick-Up-Sticks."

The power of the storms is

By Evelyn Browning...

The power of the storms is amazing.

A tornado in the Maine woodlands is as lost as one wandering through the Arizona desert!

The power of the storms is

By Evelyn Browning...

The power of the storms is amazing.

A tornado in the Maine woodlands is as lost as one wandering through the Arizona desert!

In the 70's my husband and I

By j.r. parker

In the 70's my husband and I were living on Oahu, Hawaii. We lived on Oahu for some 5 years. During that time, there was a tornado that came on shore from a water spout. The tornado traveled about 1/4th mile inland and then it disappeared. Damage was not much, where it came on shore it was just land, no buildings/homes/sugar cane fields. It was sight to behold. I thought I was seeing things, but my husband driving the car, pulled over and said NO it was an honest to gosh tornado. Hawaii does get land tornados, even tho they are rare. I did in fact see a tornado in Hawaii.

Like Florida, many of

By Evelyn Browning...

Like Florida, many of Hawaii's tornados are connected to hurricane and tropical storm activity.

How amazing it must have been to see it!

Like Florida, many of

By Evelyn Browning...

Like Florida, many of Hawaii's tornados are connected to hurricane and tropical storm activity.

How amazing it must have been to see it!

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