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Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
3:22 AM Wed, Jan. 16th

Jerome area gets tornado warning again

JEROME – For the second year in a row, the tiny incorporated Verde Valley community of Jerome faced a rare weather event Tuesday night.

Rare for Arizona, at least.

The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for the area around Jerome at 8:40 p.m. after seeing the classic signs on radar. The warning expired 35 minutes later.

"We don't issue them very often here (in northern Arizona), I would say maybe once or twice a season," said Tony Perez, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Flagstaff. And those turn into confirmed tornadoes only three-fourths of the time, he added.

The radar showed the swirling winds about a mile from Jerome in the Woodchute Wilderness, moving to the northwest.

Spotters on the ground reported funnel clouds, but as of this morning, the weather service hadn't yet confirmed whether the funnels touched the ground to become tornadoes.

Tornadoes are rare in Arizona because of the typically dry weather, Perez said, but rotating pockets of air do move through on occasion. In contrast, dust devils don't reach as high into the atmosphere as tornadoes, so they don't even show up on radar, he added.

Jerome Public Works Director Ron Ballatore was aware of the warning, but didn't see any funnel clouds.

"I didn't see it, but I was looking pretty hard," Ballatore said. "I've lived here a long time, and that's the second time I've heard the word 'tornado.' I've always been told we don't get tornadoes in the mountains."

Unlike last September when the weather service issued a warning, no one seemed to be panicking about the tornado warning this time, Ballatore said. Last year a woman was running down the street yelling for people to get in their cellars. She apparently had experienced tornadoes in a more tornado-prone area; Jerome, perched on the side of Cleopatra Hill, doesn't have any cellars.

Jerome received about six-tenths of an inch of rain, but Ballatore had a bird's-eye view from his porch of heavier downpours in the Verde Valley below.

A severe thunderstorm moved through the valley Tuesday night, producing heavy lightning and winds up to 60 mph, the weather service reported.

The wind was strong enough to tear a 30-by-16-foot section of roof off a home in the Verde Village next to Cottonwood about 8:40 p.m.

"We had real, real heavy winds at the time, and real heavy rain," said Captain Mike Rigsby of the Verde Rural Fire District.

The district had to close several streets because of flooding, and the electricity went out a couple of times, Rigsby said.

Residents of the Camp Verde area to the east reported trees and power lines knocked down by the wind.

Rainfall ranged from two to three inches in the Cottonwood and Camp Verde areas, Perez said.

Other parts of northern Arizona including Seligman, Chino Valley, Paulden and Sedona in Yavapai County reported less rain, up to two-tenths of an inch, Perez said.

Heavy lightning accompanied that storm track. Prescott also saw heavy lightning Tuesday evening, but received little rain.