Funnel Flies South Of Town

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Don Peters of Payson said his neighbors didn't believe him when he told them a funnel cloud formed Saturday afternoon in the sky just south of town.


"I was just walking up to the mailbox with my dog and happened to catch it," Peters said Monday.


Rather than waste time trying to convince his neighbors, the self-proclaimed "weather junky" grabbed his camera, photographed the anomaly, then watched its brief detour out of the clouds at 1:45 p.m.


There are several conditions that can lead to a funnel cloud formation, said Meteorologist Rob Krohn of the National Weather Service in Flagstaff.


"What we had that day was very strong thunderstorms, and quite a bit of cold air aloft, which means, well up into the atmosphere, there's quite a bit of cold air," Krohn said.


"Most importantly, what led to this was windshear aloft, which means the winds are coming from one direction on the ground, and as they go up into the atmosphere, they're coming from a different direction. That's another vital ingredient for a funnel cloud, as well as tornadoes," Krohn added.


Kelly Redmond from the Western Region Climate Center said funnel clouds are extremely rare in Arizona.


"From 1950 to 1995, the annual average of funnel clouds spotted in Arizona is three," Redmond said. "Compare that to Oklahoma's 52, or Kansas which has 47, and you can see how rare it is."


New Mexico sees roughly nine funnels a year, while Utah usually experiences two, he said.


Payson's National Weather Service observer Anna Mae Deming said she can remember only one tornado that actually wreaked havoc on the Rim country.


"That was probably 35 years ago," she said. "Walter Lovelady was in the lookout tower on Diamond Point when he saw this funnel coming up Preacher's Canyon." Lovelady took cover on the back side of Diamond Point while the funnel touched down at Preacher's Canyon, stripping leaves off manzanita and scrub oak bushes, and tossing around huge sycamore trees.


In her 51 years as an observer, Deming said she's never seen a funnel in Payson.

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