In today’s summary, we look at an outbreak of 11 tornadoes that hit parts of Arizona on October 6, 2010. This was the largest number of tornadoes to strike the state in a single day since records began in 1950. This was also the largest single-day tornado outbreak west of the Continental Divide. Per the NCDC, Arizona on average receives four tornadoes annually. This is made more interesting by the fact that the original survey found only eight tornadoes. The SPC database still has eight tornadoes listed. As we started to update this summary, we noticed these discrepancies in the number of tornadoes. We reached out to Tony Merriman, Warning Coordination Meteorologist (WCM) at NWS Flagstaff, about this.

Tony emailed us back, saying: “Earlier this summer, we updated the StormData entry after locating and compiling all the storm survey findings from almost 10 years ago.” The information provided below is the most up to date and accurate information on this historical tornado outbreak.

From the NWS Flagstaff overview of the event, a strong area of low pressure over California pushed in tremendous moisture over Arizona on this day. A combination of extremely strong vertical wind shear, instability, and lift from the low-pressure system helped to set the stage for supercells. Three of the tornadoes passed within two miles of the NWS Flagstaff forecast office. 

Here is a breakdown of the tornado ratings:

3 – EF0

2 – EF1

4 – EF2

2 – EF3

Tornado Paths

Click map to enlarge.

All 11 tracks using NCDC coordinates

Note:  Exact tornado path may not be straight and/or continuous.

Tornado tracks in Bellemont (NWS Flagstaff).
Aerial view of the tornado tracks south of Bellemont (NWS Flagstaff).
Tracks of the Garjon Tank and the two Bellemont Tornadoes as seen on satellite imagery.

Tornado #1 Blue Ridge

NCDC Stats

Path length: 14.8 miles

Width:  400 yards

Fatalities:  0

Injuries:  0

Rating:  EF2

County:  Coconino

The first tornado of the outbreak formed just north of the Coconino/Gila County border, about 2.15 miles north of Washington Park. It moved through heavily forested areas near the Blue Ridge Ranger Station, just east of the village of Clint Wells. An aerial survey conducted by the US Forest Service and the NWS found hundreds of ponderosa pine trees were snapped off or uprooted. An alligator pine that was 2.5 feet in diameter was snapped off at ground level. Several trees were downed along Highway 87. Ground-level photos show some trees even sustained minor debarking. This tornado was originally classified as an EF-1. However, later analysis from the NWS Flagstaff has upgraded the tornado to an EF-2.

Tornado Path

SPC Coordinates: Start: 34.483 / -111.29  End: 34.675 / -111.208

Corrected Coordinates from NCDC: Start: 34.44 / -111.3 End: 34.646 / -111.217

Note:  Exact tornado path may not be straight and/or continuous.

Damage Photos

Satellite imagery taken on June 5, 2012, showing the tree damage that occurred near Blue Ridge.
Trees snapped (NWS Flagstaff).
Tree snapped off just above ground level (NWS Flagstaff).

Discrepancies:

We gathered information for this event from the SPC & NCDC Databases, and the NWS Flagstaff Summary and found the following differences:

Path Length:

  • SPC lists a 14.06-mile path. 
  • NCDC and the NWS Summary lists a 14.80-mile path.

Rating:

  • SPC has an EF-1 rating.
  • NCDC and the NWS Summary has an EF-2 rating.

Tornado #2 Bellemont South

NCDC Stats

Path length: 4.9 miles

Width:  400 yards

Fatalities:  0

Injuries:  0

Rating:  EF2

County:  Coconino

This tornado began in a heavily forested area 17 miles south of Bellemont and moved north-northeast for nearly 5 miles. Significant tree damage occurred, including several areas along the path that exhibited complete destruction of the forest. In those areas, all trees were felled for hundreds of yards.  Two local roads through here were blocked by the fallen trees.

This tornado is not included in the SPC database, as this tornado was originally included with the first Bellemont tornado or Tornado #3. There was a three-mile gap in the tree damage between this tornado and Tornado #3.

Tornado Path

NCDC Coordinates: Start: 34.996 / -111.878 End: 35.065 / -111.857

Note:  Exact tornado path may not be straight and/or continuous.

Damage Photos

Satellite imagery taken on June 20, 2012, showing some of the blowdown caused by this tornado.

Tornado #3 Bellemont East

NCDC Stats

Path length: 26 miles

Width:  500 yards

Fatalities:  0

Injuries:  7

Rating:  EF2

County:  Coconino

This long-tracked tornado began 3 miles north of where the previous tornado ended, or 9 miles south of Bellemont. It tracked north for 26 miles. Significant blowdown occurred in forested areas south of Bellemont. The tornado passed just ⅔ of a mile east of the NWS Flagstaff office. It crossed Old Highway 66, where it impacted the Camping World RV store. The main store building suffered damage. Between 30 and 40 RVs were destroyed here, some of which were tossed 75 yards north onto Interstate 40.

The tornado then crossed Interstate 40, snapping off several power poles and tossing one truck off the highway. It then plowed through the Flagstaff Meadows neighborhood. Over 100 homes were damaged, 21 of which were heavily damaged or destroyed. Seven minor injuries occurred here. More extensive blowdown occurred in heavily wooded areas as the twister continued north for another 14.7 miles before entering a burn scar. Within that burn scar was a long-term data collection site owned by the Northern Arizona University School of Forestry. It was equipped with a 3D sonic anemometer 2.5 meters above the ground. The instrument was directly impacted by the tornado and survived. It recorded a 3-second wind speed of 115 mph; a 1-second wind speed of 161 mph; and an instantaneous wind speed of 185 mph. Because of the burn scar, no live trees were located within several hundred yards of the station. Unfortunately, this means there was nothing remotely close enough to the instrument to compare the measured wind speeds to any damage. The tornado continued another 1.5 miles and ended about 20 miles north-northwest of Flagstaff. Several campers were stranded by fallen trees in the area.

Tornado Path

SPC Coordinates: Start: 34.9863 / -111.871  End: 35.4738 / -111.772

Corrected Coordinates from NCDC: Start: 35.106 / -111.839 End: 35.475 / -111.772

Note:  Exact tornado path may not be straight and/or continuous.

Damage Photos

Satellite imagery taken on June 20, 2011 seen with 3D terrain in Google Earth Pro. The Flagstaff Meadows Neighborhood can be seen at top right. The tornado intensified soon after striking the subdivision and likely reached maximum intensity as it climbed up the hill in the image.
Home in Bellemont that was damaged (NWS Flagstaff).
Truck flipped over in a driveway (NWS Flagstaff).
Houses damaged in Bellemont (NWS Flagstaff).
Destroyed RVs at Camping World (NWS Flagstaff).
Semi truck blown off of Interstate 40 (NWS Flagstaff)
A home in Bellemont that was nearly destroyed (NWS Flagstaff).
Homes in Bellemont that were torn apart (Governor Jan Brewer).

Video from Youtube

Newspaper Clippings

Discrepancies:

We gathered information for this event from the SPC & NCDC Databases, and the NWS Flagstaff Summary and found the following differences:

Path Length:

  • SPC lists a 34.14-mile path. 
  • NCDC and the NWS Summary lists a 26-mile path.

Path Width:

  • SPC lists a 400 yard path width.
  • NCDC and the NWS Summary  list the path width at 500 yards. 

Tornado #4 Bellemont West

NCDC Stats

Path length: 30.06 miles

Width:  800 yards

Fatalities:  0

Injuries:  0

Rating:  EF3

County:  Coconino

Tornado number 4, also known as Bellemont West, was the second tornado to impact the town of Bellemont on this day. This tornado is also one of the strongest tornadoes in Arizona history. With a 30 mile long track, this is also the longest tornado path recorded in the state of Arizona. It began 13 miles south of Bellemont and moved parallel to and about a mile west of the previous Bellemont tornado. The nearly half-mile-wide tornado caused very severe tree destruction in the forest south of town. Complete blowdown of the forest occurred, and trees were even stripped of their bark. The tornado moved through Camp Navajo, south of Bellemont. Here, there was minor structural damage, with numerous trees and power poles were knocked over. This wedge tornado was sighted by the meteorologists at the NWS office as it passed just ⅓ of a mile west of the building.

As the tornado passed through Bellemont, it derailed 28 train cars. Crossing Interstate 40, the tornado flipped several semi-tucks and trailers. It tracked north for 17 more miles through wooded areas blowing down thousands of trees. Several campers were stranded by fallen trees and numerous local roads were blocked under fallen trees. 

The tornado was originally classified as an EF-2 but it was upgraded to EF-3 in a later re-analysis. We believe the upgrade from an EF-2 to an EF-3 occurred due to the severity of the forest destruction south of Bellemont. Recently tornadoes have been rated EF-3 due to 100% blowdown of a forested area.

Tornado Path

SPC Coordinates: Start: 34.9976 / -111.877  End: 35.4866 / -111.779

Corrected Coordinates from NCDC: Start: 35.05 / -111.865 End: 35.4866 / -111.779

Note:  Exact tornado path may not be straight and/or continuous.

Damage Photos

Satellite imagery from May 30, 2012, showing severe tree destruction.
Ground level shot of the severe blowdown (NWS Flagstaff).
28 freight containers blow off a train 400 yards west of the Flagstaff WFO (Storm Data Publication).

Photos of the Tornado

The Bellemont West Tornado (NWS Flagstaff, via the Southeastern Arizona Chapter of the American Meteorological Society Facebook).

Video of the Tornado

Discrepancies:

We gathered information for this event from the SPC & NCDC Databases, and the NWS Flagstaff Summary and found the following differences:

Path Length:

  • SPC lists a 32.02-mile path. 
  • NCDC and the NWS Summary lists a 30.03-mile path.

Rating:

  • SPC lists this as an EF-2.
  • NCDC and the NWS Summary lists this as an EF-3.

Tornado #5 Garjon Tank

NCDC Stats

Path length: 18.6 miles

Width:  600 yards

Fatalities:  0

Injuries:  0

Rating:  EF2

County:  Coconino

The next tornado formed about 19 miles south of the town of Parks, AZ, just north of the Yavapai/Coconino County border. It moved north for 18.6 miles, ending just south of Interstate 40, west of Bellemont. The path of the tornado was parallel to and 1.2 miles west of Tornadoes #3 and #4. The tornado also passed two miles west of the NWS office, as it was roping out. There was extensive tree damage in the heavily forested area. Aerial surveys indicated the tornado likely cycled, and the path may have actually been made up of three individual tornadoes. 

Tornado Path

SPC/NCDC Coordinates: Start: 34.9824 / -111.927  End: 35.2455/ -111.861

Note:  Exact tornado path may not be straight and/or continuous.

Damage Photo

Satellite imagery taken on June 20, 2011 showing the blow down caused by the tornado.

Discrepancies:

We gathered information for this event from the SPC & NCDC Databases, and the NWS Flagstaff Summary and found the following differences:

Path Width:

  • SPC lists a 500 yard path width
  • NCDC and the NWS Summary lists a 600 yard path width

    Tornado #6 Chalender

    NCDC Stats

    Path length: 0.7 miles

    Width:  100 yards

    Fatalities:  0

    Injuries:  0

    Rating:  EF1

    County:  Coconino

    This tornado is not included in the SPC database and was uncovered by the NWS Flagstaff via aerial surveys that were conducted during reanalysis. This brief tornado formed about 9.23 miles southeast of Chalender and moved north-northeast for about 0.70 miles. Several trees were snapped or uprooted consistent with an EF-1 tornado.

    Tornado Path

    SPC/NCDC Coordinates: Start: 35.108 / -111.967 End: 35.116/ -111.961

    Note:  Exact tornado path may not be straight and/or continuous.

    Tornado #7 Rattlesnake Tank

    NCDC Stats

    Path length: 1.1 miles

    Width:  100 yards

    Fatalities:  0

    Injuries:  0

    Rating:  EF1

    County:  Coconino

    The 7th tornado of the outbreak began about 18 miles south of Bellemont. It moved northeast for about a mile. The damage was confined to several snapped and uprooted trees in the Rattlesnake Tank area.

    The tornado was originally rated EF-2. Later analysis by the NWS Flagstaff downgraded to EF-1 based on tree damage.

    Tornado Path

    SPC Coordinates: Start: 34.981 / -111.876  End: 35.0205 / -111.867

    Corrected Coordinates from NCDC: Start: 34.981 / -111.865 End: 35.995 / -111.869

    Note:  Exact tornado path may not be straight and/or continuous.

    Discrepancies:

    We gathered information for this event from the SPC & NCDC Databases, and the NWS Flagstaff Summary and found the following differences:

    Path Length:

    • SPC lists a 2.77-mile path. 
    • NCDC and the NWS Summary lists a 1.1-mile path.

    Path Width:

    • SPC lists a 200 yard width.
    • NCDC and the NWS Summary lists a 100 yard width. 

    Rating:

    • SPC lists this as an EF-2.
    • NCDC and the NWS Summary lists this as an EF-1.

    Tornado #8 Bumble Bee

    NCDC Stats

    Path length: 4 miles

    Width:  50 yards

    Fatalities:  0

    Injuries:  0

    Rating:  EF0

    County:  Yavapai

    The Bumble Bee tornado began about 10 miles east-northeast of the ghost town of Bumble Bee. The tornado was spotted by several people as it tracked northeast for four miles through grasslands east of Interstate 17. There was no damage caused by this weak tornado.

    Tornado Path

    SPC Coordinates: Start: 34.1358 / -112.055  End: 34.2215 / -111.982

    Corrected Coordinates from NCDC: Start: 34.236 / -111.973 End: 34.29 / -111.946

    Note:  Exact tornado path may not be straight and/or continuous.

    Discrepancies:

    We gathered information for this event from the SPC & NCDC Databases, and the NWS Flagstaff Summary and found the following differences:

    Path Length:

    • SPC lists a 7.26 mile path length.
    • NCDC and the NWS Summary lists a 4 mile path length.

      Tornado #9 Tuba City

      NCDC Stats

      Path length: 4 miles

      Width:  1100 yards

      Fatalities:  0

      Injuries:  0

      Rating:  EF3

      County:  Coconino

      A large wedge tornado developed about 20 miles southeast of Tuba City, and tracked northeast for four miles, ending south of Highway 264. Despite being in an utterly unpopulated wasteland, it managed to become one of the most intense tornadoes in Arizona state history. Three 500 KV electrical transmission towers were collapsed. One of these large metal towers was ripped from its anchoring and completely flattened to the ground.   It was left like a twisted pile of noodles on the desert floor. Per the NWS Flagstaff the winds may have been as high as 165 mph. No other damage occurred in this uninhabited area.

      Tornado Path

      SPC Coordinates: Start: 35.9342 / -111.001  End: Same as start

      Corrected Coordinates from NCDC: Start: 35.909 / -111.005 End: 35.961 / -110.961

      Note:  Exact tornado path may not be straight and/or continuous.

      Damage Photos

      The metal truss tower that was completely flattened (NWS Flagstaff, via Southeastern Arizona Chapter of the American Meteorological Society Facebook).
      A toppled transmission tower (NWS Flagstaff).

      Video of the Tornado

      Discrepancies:

      We gathered information for this event from the SPC & NCDC Databases, and the NWS Flagstaff Summary and found the following differences:

      Path Length:

      • SPC lists a 0.1 mile path length.
      • NCDC and the NWS Summary lists a 4 mile path length.

        Tornado #10 Munds Park

        NCDC Stats

        Path length: 3.8 miles

        Width:  200 yards

        Fatalities:  0

        Injuries:  0

        Rating:  EF0

        County:  Coconino

        A weak tornado moved through Munds Park. It produced minor damage. It was witnessed as it crossed Interstate 17. No other details are known about this tornado. 

        Tornado Path

        SPC Coordinates: Start: 34.9404 / -111.665 End: 35.1735 / -111.566

        Corrected Coordinates from NCDC: Start: 34.9404 / -111.665 End: 34.957 / -111.624

        Note:  Exact tornado path may not be straight and/or continuous.

        Discrepancies:

        We gathered information for this event from the SPC & NCDC Databases, and the NWS Flagstaff Summary and found the following differences:

        Path Length:

        • SPC lists a 17.05 mile path length.
        • NCDC and the NWS Summary lists a 3.8 mile path length.

          Tornado #11 Flagstaff

          NCDC Stats

          Path length: 1.7 miles

          Width:  100 yards

          Fatalities:  0

          Injuries:  0

          Rating:  EF0

          County:  Coconino

          This was the final tornado of the outbreak. It was seen about 4 miles south of the Country Club Neighborhood, on the eastern side of Flagstaff. Little to no damage occurred.

          This tornado was originally considered to be part of a long-tracked EF-0 that moved from Munds Park. The Munds Park tornado and this tornado are now considered two separate tornadoes.

          Tornado Path

          NCDC Coordinates: Start: 35.159 / -111.548 End: 35.17/ -111.544

          Note:  Exact tornado path may not be straight and/or continuous.

          Photo of the Tornado

          The tornado as it passed southwest of Flagstaff (NWS Flagstaff, via Southeastern Arizona Chapter of the American Meteorological Society Facebook).

          Radar Imagery via NWS Flagstaff

          Radar Loop October 6th From 4:24 AM - 10:27 AM (NWS Flagstaff).
          Radar Loop October 6th From 10:32 AM - 1:50 PM (NWS Flagstaff).
          Tornadoes that Impacted Bellemont, AZ on October 6th (NWS Flagstaff).
          Velocity Image Showing Tornadic Circulation Headed Towards Bellemont (NWS Flagstaff).

          Did you enjoy reading about this event?  Help us create MORE summaries like this one by becoming a Supporter on Patreon!

          Questions or comments about this summary?  Contact us here!

          Join the tornado history discussion on our Discord Server!

          X