Tornadoes in Arizona

March 9, 2023

tornadoes in Arizona

While Arizona typically doesn't experience the destructive tornadoes that occur in Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Ohio on a regular basis, tornadoes do touch down in some areas.

During severe thunderstorms, there are two types of potential tornadoes that can form: cold air funnels and landspouts. Both have the same basic characteristics.

EF4+ Pheonix Metro Tornado

The EF4+ Pheonix Metro Tornado was a very strong tornado that hit the Phoenix area Friday morning. This tornado destroyed a number of businesses, industrial workplaces, and homes as it passed through the city.

Several residential areas around Optimist Park took hits at EF3 intensity, while homes along East Duke Drive were severely damaged at EF4 intenisty. Fuller Elementary School sustained a direct hit, with the roof collapsing and brick walls being blown inward.

Moving further into the center of the city, a number of businesses and warehouses were struck, including a Nice Car AZ car dealership. Some shoddily built buildings were completely demolished, while others suffered moderate damage.

As the tornado crossed Arizona State Route 101, many cars were trapped in the funnel and carried varying distances. Another busy highway, US route 60, was also affected. Thousands of vehicles were thrown into the surrounding neighborhoods as the tornado moved through, resulting in a high death toll among vehicles.

EF4+ Tempe Tornado

It's been 51 years since a tornado ripped through Tempe, leaving dozens injured and causing millions of dollars in damage. The category F-1 tornado whipped up 100 mph gusts that tore roofs of homes, uprooted trees and ripped power poles from their foundations.

The tornado crossed SR101 as it made its way through the city, encroaching on drivers and trapping over 60 cars inside of the funnel. Many of these cars were sheltering under the West Baseline Road overpass, resulting in the death of 3 people and injuries to 41 others.

As the tornado tracked northeast across West Southern Avenue, it reached EF4 intensity again, leveling two isolated fast food restaraunts. A College Plaza strip mall also had significant mid-EF3 damage, with cars tossed into a debris pile over the building.

As the tornado exited Optimist Park, Fuller Elementary School was hit directly. The brick facade collapsed and the interior metal structure was crushed. Other nearby houses were damaged and partially swept away.

EF4+ Glendale Tornado

A brief landspout tornado touched down in Glendale, Arizona on Tuesday 23 October 2018. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), it was one of the smallest tornadoes to make an appearance in the Valley. The event measured in at around 10 minutes and had an EF0 rating.

During the event, multiple small homes were destroyed, a popular bakery in the area was blown away and many trees were also obliterated. In addition, several power lines were ripped out, including a tower in the city’s downtown business district.

In all, the aforementioned tornado had an overall impact of over $2 billion in damages. In addition, it also caused a handful of injuries and fatalities. As with any type of weather related event, preparation is the key to a safe and successful recovery. There are many tools and resources available online to assist with preparing for any disaster. The best place to start is by educating yourself and your family.

EF4+ Scottsdale Tornado

The EF4+ Scottsdale Tornado was one of the strongest tornadoes to hit Arizona. This tornado was part of a series of severe weather events that occurred across the state on October 5-6, 2010.

The first tornado to hit Phoenix touched down just north of downtown Phoenix at around 6:16pm. It was a weak tornado at first, but as it moved northeast, it intensified and began doing damage.

At the same time, a large storm system formed over central Arizona and produced a series of hailstorms that caused significant damage in Phoenix. The line of thunderstorms then moved to the northwest, producing a few more tornadoes in the area.

The Scottsdale tornado reached EF4+ strength as it crossed South Exit Street, leveling two isolated fast food restaraunts. A Circle K gas station was also destroyed, along with a boat storage facility and a large industrial park. Several apartment complexes were impacted by the tornado as it continued to travel northeast.


Tornado Dave is the best place to learn more about severe weather and climate science. He's a veritable tornado of information, and he loves nothing more than educating others about the importance of being prepared for extreme weather events. Make sure to check in with Tornado Dave often, as he's always updating his blog with the latest news and information!
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