Wind gusts in excess of 40 mph Saturday blew down a large, dead tree on Main Street, which fell on the car of a passing motorist. The driver and two passengers escaped injury.
"It was a freaky thing," driver Mary Fitzpatrick, said. "I didn't hear anything -- there was no clue, no warning. The tree just came down in a flash of an instant."
Payson Fire Captain Jim Rasmussen estimated the dead tree to be 50 feet tall and more than 36 inches in diameter.
"All we know is that the car was driving down the road and the wind blew the tree over and the people were really, really lucky that the tree landed on the hood of the car instead of the passenger compartment," Rasmussen said.
"We are just grateful that none of us suffered any serious injury," Fitzpatrick said. "I'm thankful to be in one piece.'
Street department staff arrived with a dump truck and loader to assist with clean up, Rasmussen said.
The wind also triggered two small wildfires, according to Payson Ranger District Fire Prevention Officer Gary Roberts. East of Payson near Mead Ranch, a tree blew over and stuck a power line causing a small fire. Smoldering embers from the Webber Canyon Fire were stirred up and reignited six acres before being put out by Forest Service crews.
According to Flagstaff National Weather Service meteorologist Tom Clemmons, strong winds are common this time of year.
"We had a fairly vigorous storm system come through the area that had a strong cold front, but little precipitation," Clemmons said. "It's common this time of year to have systems come through with very little rain and high winds."
Weather spotters reported gusts above 40 mph with sustained winds of 30 mph, Clemmons said.
"There can be a lot of variation of wind gusts, even within the town of Payson," Clemmons said. "Spring is a windy time of year."