The National Weather Service says a small tornado touched down in Mesa County just before 3:30pm Tuesday.
"This afternoon we had a phone call come in about 3:25 with a report of a tornado," said Jeff Colton, a National Weather Service Meteorologist.
As an off-duty National Weather Service employee was driving up Highway 50 Tuesday afternoon, he noticed something unusual near Mt. Garfield. He pulled out his phone and took pictures of what appeared to be a small tornado.
"Based on some brief activity signatures and some air motions inside that storm it does indeed look like we had enough for a brief spin-up of a tornado in that area," said Colton.
That employee told his coworkers he could only see the funnel for about 5 minutes. Meteorologists say the combination of winds blowing off the Bookcliffs and thunderstorm activity in area was just right to produce a tornado.
"It would be classified as an EF zero, so a very minor, weak wind tornado," said Colton.
Since 1998, the National Weather Service says it has officially documented eight tornados in Mesa County, not including Tuesday's. The last one touched down in Mack back in August of 2005. Only one -- a tornado in Whitewater that touched down in 2000 -- registered higher than an EF 0.
"It's a pretty rare occurrence," said Colton.
But experts say now that we're in a time period when the weather can turn nasty, it's not completely out of the question that something like this could happen again soon.
"Pretty much any thunderstorm if it has the right conditions can produce severe weather," said Colton.
Experts say today's brief activity is a good reminder that severe weather does happen in Western Colorado and residents need to be aware of it. They say although the tornados that do hit the Valley are EF 0's, they can still flip over cars, throw debris around, and injure people.
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