No, this isn’t a photo of the tornado in Island Park. As luck would have it, my camera was at home. But the funnel cloud over Harriman State Park (almost straight west across the river from Trout Hunter) started forming about 6:45 p.m. last night. It began about 1,000 feet off the ground in the base of some serious cumulo-nimbus clouds and started growing toward the ground. Within no more than 2 – 3 minutes it touched down and snow, ice, sagebrush and other debris was flying everywhere. Just as it started to move southward, it lifted off the ground and started retreating toward the clouds. Then the whole process repeated itself and the tornado touched down again. This happened three times.
Now I’m admittedly no expert in tornadoes. I’m sure those of you from Oklahoma or Kansas would pooh, pooh our little tornado away as nothing to get too excited about. It wasn’t a gigantic funnel cloud, didn’t leave a swath of destruction a mile wide, and didn’t send people running for their lives. But for us, it was a big deal (kind of like when they get 3 – 4 inches of snow in Texas and they close the schools and everything shuts down until it melts.) But there’s no question it was a tornado, no question it touched down and no question it was rare for our mountain home.
This is not the first sighting we’ve had here. It happens infrequently, but it happens. This one was impressive to watch for the uninitiated among us. Lest you think I imagined the whole thing, there were cars parked up and down the road watching the tornado who can verify the story. If you were in one of them, let’s hear what you saw.