Clay Puccini of Burlington said he saw a weird cloud as he was driving along the Greybull River at 11 a.m., on his way to plant corn in a field. He thought he was getting dizzy — but it was the cloud that was spinning, he said.
Then he realized it was a funnel cloud similar to the ones he’d spotted in California.
“I’ve seen several just like that touch down and rip roofs off houses,” Puccini said.
Puccini said he saw the tornado in the vicinity of the Burlington cutoff (County Road 3LE) on the Schlenker Ranch.
He witnessed the tornado’s tiny tail touch down on the Y-U Bench, Puccini said.
The Y-U Bench is roughly northeast of Road 3LE and four or five miles northeast of Meeteetse.
Following the light touch down, he heard the tornado warning announced on the radio, Puccini said.
The Park County Sheriff’s office received a report of a tornado, but no deputies witnessed the phenomenon. Nor did they receive any reports of injuries or property damage, said Lance Mathess, communications officer for the sheriff’s office.
“We definitely did have one (tornado) in northwest Wyoming,” said Pat Slattery from the National Weather Service central region office in Kansas City, Mo. “It touched down and lifted back up almost immediately.”
Based on calls the sheriff’s office received, the tornado was spotted shortly after 11 a.m. At 11:19 a.m., the sheriff’s office reported the tornado had lifted, said Meteorologist Jason Anglin of the National Weather Service in Riverton.
Another report came from the vicinity of Harrington Reservoir near Worland. “From a distance they could see a funnel cloud,” Anglin said.
Several reports of funnel clouds Monday could have been the same tornado. The service is aware of only one touch down, Anglin said.
He didn’t see an official measurement, but said Monday’s twister would likely be considered an EF-0 or EF-1. An EF-0 has winds of 65 to 85 mph; an EF-1 has wind speeds of 86 to 110 mph.
In contrast, an EF-5, spawned by super cell thunder storms, sustains winds of 200 mph or more, Slattery said. Last week’s tornado in Moore, Okla., was classified as an EF-5.
If Monday’s tornado was classified, it would probably be designated an EF-0 because there was no property damage, Anglin said.
The Enhanced Fujita scale (EF scale) rates the strength of tornadoes. The scale is named for Tetsuya Theodore Fujita, Slattery said.
Tornados are a combination of heat, moisture and wind. However, no one knows why, when two identical combinations of heat, moisture and wind clash that one system generates a tornado and the other does not, Slattery said.
They do happen, especially in basins, but a strong tornado in Wyoming is uncommon, Anglin said.
This was the first tornado Puccini had seen in Wyoming, but a friend saw a tornado on the Emblem Bench four years ago, Puccini said.
“I don’t believe Wyoming has ever had any of the big monster tornados,” Slattery said.
Pea-sized hail also was reported two miles south of Powell on Monday morning, Anglin said.