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2022 Phoenix Metro Tornado
EF4
The tornado pictured shortly after becoming an EF4, moving towards the CVS on East Elliot Road

The tornado pictured shortly after becoming an EF4, moving towards the CVS on East Elliot Road
Date November 7, 2022
Times 6:16 pm - 6:38 pm (MST)
Touchdown location 6:16 pm Pacific Standard Time
Highest winds

200mph (322 km/h)

Injuries 2,019
Fatalities 213
Damage $8.82 billion (2020 USD)
Areas affected Phoenix, Chandler, Tempe, and Mesa in Maricopa County, Arizona
Part of the
Tornadoes of 2022 (SDT)

The 2022 Pheonix metro tornado was a catastrophic and historic tornado that caused extreme devastation as it tracked through a large chunk of the Pheonix metropolitan area in Arizona. The cities of Tempe and Mesa were especially hit hard, with tens of thousands of homes and businesses being damaged or destroyed in those 2 cities. Additionally, it was one of only 4 violent tornadoes to occur in the state of Arizona, with the other 3 happening on the same day.

At the time it happened, it was the second-ever violent tornado in Arizona state history, and the second of four EF4+ tornadoes to occur in the state on November 7, 2022. It carved a path of destruction through 4 cities in Maricopa County, though the cities of Tempe and Mesa were especially hit hard, with astronomical amounts of deaths and damages occuring there. 213 people were killed, making it the deadliest on record in Arizona and the second deadliest during the outbreak, only behind the long-tracked EF5 that hit San Diego County, California a few hours earlier. Most of the deaths occurred in homes, as many people did not have proper tornado shelters, and those that did could not withstand the sheer strength of the tornado.

Because of the amount of damage it did, especially to the Banner Desert Medical Center, the tornado's damage total reached a staggering $8 billion. The local economy was shattered by the tornado, and thousands were made homeless and jobless. The tornado became the worst disaster in Arizonian history, both in terms of number of deaths and cost, and the national guard was called in the days following the tornado.

Tornado Summary

The funnel cloud pictured just south of a mini storage unit facility south of Ahwatukee

At around 4:45pm MST, a thunderstorm formed near Ajo, Arizona and quickly became a very power storm, producing large hail and gusty winds across southern Maricopa County. Moving rather quickly at 45mph, the supercell reached developed a tight circulation as it approached the southern Phoenix metropolitan area, dropping two bried, weak tornadoes before recycling its circulation. After completing the cycle, a new rotation formed just south of the Ahwatukee neighborhood of Phoenix, prompting a tornado warning for the southern half of the Phoenix metropolitan area. Shortly afterward, a funnel was reported.

Radar reflectivity and velocity of the supercell as it moved through the city of Tempe

At 6:16pm, several motorists along the South Mountain Freeway reported that a tornado had touched down. The stovepipe tornado began moving northeast at 40mph, crossing the freeway less than a minute later and moving into a residential area. Several houses sustained minor to moderate EF1 damage to their roof, and sections of roofing at the Kyrene de los Lagos Elementary School were ripped off as the tornado slowly grew in size and strength. Shortly after the tornado began doing damage, law enforcement reported the damage to the National Weather Service in Phoenix to upgrade the tornado warning to a tornado emergency. EF2 damage began appearing along homes at East Liberty Drive, with numerous homes having their roofs completely ripped off with trees being uprooted. Damage similar to this occurred over the next mile as the tornado moved through the Lakewood neighborhoods of southern Phoenix. As the tornado crossed South 40th street, it had grown to be 150 yards wide and caused major damage to the roofs and walls of several metal framed industrial buildings. The Ironwood Library as well as the Arizona General Hospital Emergency Room both suffered roof damage with blown out windows, with many critical patients at the emergency room having to be transported to a different location after the building lost power.

Tornado Emergency Text
415

WFUS55 KPSR 071127

TORPSR

AZ027-071127- /O.CON.KPSR.TO.W.0029.221107T0120Z-221107T0150Z/

620 PM MST MON NOV 07 2022


SEVERE WEATHER STATEMENT

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE PHOENIX AZ .


...TORNADO EMERGENCY FOR THE PHEONIX METRO AREA...


...A TORNADO WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 650 PM MST FOR EASTERN MARICOPA COUNTY...


AT 618 PM MST...A CONFIRMED LARGE AND DESTRUCTIVE TORNADO WAS LOCATED OVER AHWATUKEE...MOVING NORTHEAST AT 40 MPH.


TORNADO EMERGENCY FOR THE PHOENIX METRO AREA. THIS IS A PARTICULARLY DANGEROUS SITUATION. TAKE COVER NOW!


HAZARD...DEADLY TORNADO.


SOURCE...LAW ENFORCEMENT CONFIRMED TORNADO.


IMPACT...

YOU ARE IN A LIFE-THREATENING SITUATION. FLYING DEBRIS MAY BE DEADLY TO THOSE CAUGHT WITHOUT SHELTER. MOBILE HOMES WILL BE DESTROYED. CONSIDERABLE DAMAGE TO HOMES... BUSINESSES...AND VEHICLES IS LIKELY AND COMPLETE DESTRUCTION IS POSSIBLE.


THE TORNADO WILL BE NEAR...

GUADALUPE AROUND 620 PM MST

TEMPE AROUND 625 PM MST

MESA AROUND 630 PM MST.


PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...


TO REPEAT...A LARGE...EXTREMELY DANGEROUS...AND POTENTIALLY DEADLY TORNADO IS ON THE GROUND. TO PROTECT YOUR LIFE...TAKE COVER NOW! MOVE TO AN INTERIOR ROOM ON THE LOWEST FLOOR OF A STURDY BUILDING. AVOID WINDOWS. IF IN A MOBILE HOME...A VEHICLE OR OUTDOORS...MOVE TO THE CLOSEST SUBSTANTIAL SHELTER AND PROTECT YOURSELF FROM FLYING DEBRIS.


A LARGE AND EXTREMELY DANGEROUS TORNADO IS ON THE GROUND. TAKE IMMEDIATE TORNADO PRECAUTIONS. THIS IS AN EMERGENCY SITUATION.


&&


LAT...LON 3332 11195 3334 11192 3336 11190 3338 11189 3339 11186 3340 11184

TIME...MOT...LOC 0119Z 225DEG 35KT 3331 11198


TORNADO...OBSERVED

TORNADO DAMAGE THREAT...CATASTROPHIC

HAIL...2.50IN

$$

CK

The Lowe's hardware store, showing significant damage to half the bulding

Homes along East Rockledge Road sustained the first EF3 damage of the tornado, with numerous homes having their exterior walls collapse. Half of the buildings in the Thistle Landing Office Park were struck by the tornado, with one building having half of its roof blown off with severe exterior damage at the northern wing. The nearby Cyracom building and other large warehouses were also struck, with some of the more poorly built structures completely collapsing as the tornado grew to 300 yards in width and turned due northeast. The tornado crossed Interstate 10, tossing several cars off the road, entering a shopping center. A variety of fast food restaraunts were damaged in this area, including a Red Lobster that suffered a direct hit, having its entire roof blown off and 2 outside walls destroyed. The Courtyard by Marriott Chandler had its roof torn off as well, with balconies on several floors being snapped off and most of the exterior walls on the buildings top floor caving in. Nearby, a Lowe's Hardware Store saw a signficant section of its roof be removed, with cars in the parking lot being tossed up to 75 yards away.

The collapsed section of the Home Depot

Contuing northeast, several apartment complexes adjacant to the Lowe's sustained roof damage as well, and hundreds of homes in the neighborhood around Jeanine Park were majorly damaged. The tornado then crossed South Hardy Drive, entering an industrial complex. Boats at a boat storagehouse were picked up and carried for up to 200 yards, and numerous small, metal framed buildings were completley destroyed. A home depot was struck directly, partially collapsing, and a nearby public storage facility was completely destroyed as every metal framed storage building was mangled and blown away. High-end EF3 damage was inflicted to other nearby buildings, and the tornado became violent as it struck the Ag spray equipment storage building, completely destroying the building and bend metal support beams to the ground. Moving into another residential area, several homes along the center of the tornado's path were completely destroyed at EF4 intensity, with the tornado widening to over a quarter of a mile wide as it passed over the Kyrene Branch Canal. In this area, many homes were adobe-style one floor, stucco homes, which crumbled and were swept away under the violent winds of the tornado. Larger and more well-built homes along South Millie Avenue were very heavily damaged, with several being completely destroyed and collapsing. It was also at this time that, due to the tornado's large size and itense windfield throughout the entirety of the funnel, that a near-record amount of debris was detected within the storm. Because of this, many of the destroyed homes were relentlessly impacted by flying debris, making it hard for damage surveyors to rate the actual windspeed of the tornado.

A destroyed home near where the tornado peaked

The tornado pictured as it moved over the area around East Divot Drive

The tornado continued to track through urban neighborhoods, damagin and destroying hundreds of homes. A shopping center at the intersection of East Elliot and South Rural roads was struck by the tornado, with a shopper at a CVS taking a photo of the tornado just minutes before the building was destroyed at high-end EF3 intensity. Nearby, a strip mall completely collapsed with debris being partially blown off the foundation, and a Dairy Queen was completely destroyed as the tornado reached the upper-end of the EF4 range. Many homes continued to be impacted, and the tornado peaked in both size and strength over the area over East Drake Drive. At this location, an entire row of homes was completely swept away. Initially, the damage was rated EF5, though it was later downgraded to high-end EF4 at 200mph due to the fact that all of the homes had floorboards still attached to the homes via the anchor bolts that were too far apart to make a significant difference to the construction of the home. Trees in the area were fully debarked and denuded, with cars parked along the street being mangled and carried for over half a mile. With the tornado streching to be just under half a mile wide, the edge of the tornado caused minor roof and window damage to the Kyrene de los Niños Elementary School. A few other homes along East Divot Drive suffered similar damage as those along East Duke Drive, and water was sucked out of Western Canal as the tornado passed over.

The collpased northern front of the Kyrene del Norte Elementary School

The Kyrene del Norte Elementary School avoided a direct hit from the tornado but still sustained significant damage, with most of the roof collapsing and outside walls on the northern face of the building being blown in as well. Significant EF4 damage continued to be inflicted on homes along the core of the tornado's path before the Tempe Square Shopping Center was struck directly. One stripmall in the center, whihc contained a Baskin Robins, PetSmart, and other businesses, was completely destroyed, with light poles in the parking lot being snapped at the base and cars being lofted. A Walgreens completely collapsed, and an isolated Panda Express was partially swept away, marking an area of a second peak within the tornado as the damage was also given a 200mph rating. Several Doctor's offices and other professionalr etail buildings also suffered major damage, and one of the only Mosques in Tempe was demolished as well. Continuing to move northeastward and a quick pace, hundreds of more homes between the Tempe Square Shopping Center and Optimist Park were damaged or destroyed befure the tornado moved directly over Optimist Park. Grass in the park was lightly scoured, with trees being debarked and the park's playground being slathered with mangled debris, mud, and insulation from nearby homes.

Tornado damage showing the collapsed structure at Fuller Elementary School

As the tornado exited Optimist Park, Fuller Elementary School took a direct hit from the tornado. The brick facade of the building collapsed, and the interior metal structure was crushed under the weight of the roof caving in, causing the entire building to collapse. Homes adjacent to the school were completley destroyed, with a few being partially swept away, and apaprtments on East del Sur Drive sustained significant damage to their roofs and upper floors. In between Fuller Elementary and the West Basline Road overpass of Arizona State Route 101, dozens of homes were completely destroyed at EF4 intenisty, with over 200 others taking other degrees of damage. The tornado then passed directly over the Crossroads Professional Village, casuing severe structural damage to an LA Fitness building. Several small professional buildings were completely destroyed and swept away, and the canopy of a Mobil gas station was destroyed and thrown onto State Route 101.

High-end EF3 damage to the emergency room of the Banner Desert Medical Center

Crossing SR101, one of the busiest roads in the city, almost 60 cars got trapped in the funnel as the tornado crossed over a half mile long segment of the highway. A very high number of these were cars sheltering under the West Baseline Road overpass, where the center of the tornado crossed, resulting in a staggering amount of vehicle fatalites as the cars were carried for up to 600 yards. On the other side of the 101, three cul de sacs along West Isabella Avenua sustained direct hits, with 9 houses suffering at least low-end EF4 damage. Weakening still, the tornado crossed over yet another busy highway, US route 60, encroaching on yet another high number of drivers. Just over route 60, Ernhardt Park and surrounding homes were completely destroyed as the tornado briefly reintensified to 180mph, before plowing into the Banner Desert Medical Center, the second largest hospital complex in Arizona. By this point, however, the tornado had weakened to high-end EF3 strength, though severe structural damage was still affliced on the main buildings on site. Every window on the four story main building was blown out, and thousands of cars in the parking lot were crushed and thrown into surrounding areas, compounding exterior damage. The roof structure over the emergency room wing collapsed with all exterior walls being blown down, being rated 165mph EF3, and the radio antenna on top of the building were toppled, lofted, and despoted 450 yards away. Power was knocked out to the entire complex and the building's backup generators were completely destroyed, leaving 450 patients without power, and with every ambulence on site destroyed, transportation in and out of the facility was virtually made impossible. Because of this, almost two dozen critical patients lost their lives due to the lack of necessary equipment. Across the street, the northern buildings on the Mesa Community College campus sustained EF0-EF1 damage, though the Mesa Institue of Religion was severely damaged at EF3 intensity.

EF3 tornado damage to an apartment building

Moving northeast across West Southern Avenue, the tornado once again reached EF4 strength, leveling two isolate fast food restaraunts. The College Plaza strip mall was totally destroyed, with cars in the parking lot being mangled and hurled into the debris pile over the building. Numerous different apartment complexes were also struck by the tornado as it began to weaken, with the heaviest damage consisting of the top floor of the apartments being completely destroyed, with large trees in and around the complexes being uprooted and tossed dozens of yards. The tornado briefly crossed into another residential neighborhood, causing significant roof and exterior wall damage to about a dozen homes befre barrelling into yet another apartmernt complex, reuslting in mid-EF3 damage to 4 seperate buildings. Condominiums in Beacon at 601 were struck directly, resulting in heavy damage to terraces, trees, and carports in the. Interestingly, however, the stucco-concrete mix facade held up against the winds, with the flat top roofs alolowing the tornadic winds to pass over and around the buildings. The only structural damage done to the condos werer from being impacted by debris, with very minor wind damage (aside from broken windows and destroyed balconies) actually beign inflicted upon the buildings despite low-end EF3 damage surrounding the buildings. Jut north of the Beacon at 601 condominiums, the Alma Meadows mobile home park sustained major damage. 3 dozen trailers sustained at least EF2 damage, with almost 3/4 of the entire park being damaged. Trailers along south street were especially hard-hit, with an entire row being completely destroyed and tossed into each other at mid-EF3 range. Past Alma Meadows, three other apartment complexes were hit as well, and the tornado then moved into an industrial region as it crossed South Exit Street.

The tornado pictured moving across West Broadway Road

On the other side of South Exit Street, the tornado became violent one final time as a Circle K gas station was completely destroyed at EF4 intensity. Nearby, boats from a boat storagehouse were picked up and tossed up to 80 yards away, with several large metal-framed building systems being completely destroyed amnd mangled. Across the street, the Broadway Mesa Center strip mall, along West Browadway Road, was largely destroyed. Beyind the strip mall, an industrial park filled with numerous warehouses, office buildings, and manufacturing systems was directly struck by the tornado. A stationary train on tracks in the complex was blown off its railing, and the B&M Upholstery building was completely destroyed at high-end EF3 intensity. Numerous other warehouses suffered significant roof and/or exterior wall damage, with dozens of trucks and cars being lofted into the tornado and carried varying distances. At a block near South Country Club Drive and West First sreet, a Wells Fargo ban was largely destroyed, with only interior walls remaingin intact, and neabry houses suffered similar damage. The small, shoddily built Nice Car AZ car dealership was completely swept away, with cars at the dealership being crushed and scattered around the vicinity as the tornado made a sharp turn towards the north-northeast.

A collapsed portion of a strip mall, being rated high-end EF3 at 160mph

As the tornado turned, several more blocks of heavy EF3 damage occyrred. A neighborhood of poorly built wooden homes was completely obliterated, and a Subway fast food building was largely destroyed with only interior kitchen walls left standing. Three seperate strip malls in a closely related group all had their roofs collapse, with the hardest hit one suffering a partial collapse of the westernmost wing at low-end EF3 intensity. The Arizona Natural History Museum sustained a near-direct hit, with the entire roof structure being blown off. South-facing exterior walls on the second floor were blown in, and almost every exhibit on the top floor was heavily damaged or destroyed, with many on the first floor being struck by flying debris as well, destroying countless pieces of ancient Native American artifacts. The Queen of Peace Catholic church was largely destroyed, and the last building to be hit by EF3 winds was an apartment building, which lost its entire top floor. Shear from a rapidly developing southern cell, responsible for the northward turn of the tornado, then mixed down into the mesocyclone, causing the tornado to rapidly weaken and decrease in size as it crossed North Center Street. The roof of the Mesa Ampitheatre collapsed, and several dozens houses along North Sirrine Street saw mid-high end EF2 damage, with most having their roofs blown off with a few poorer built structures losing exterior walls as well. Weakening to an EF1 shortly after, air conditiong units on the roof of the Mesa Mail Printing & Graphics building were blown off, and scrap metal and plywood debris from the Mesa City Water Conservation plant were lofted and thrown into nearby buildings, causing minor roof and window damage. Striking the Eisenhower Center for Innovation, the tornado downed several trees on campus and blew out windows in the southern wing, before finally lifting into a funnel over the parking lot.

Aftermath

Aerial shot of damage to a city block in Tempe

Having trekked through an extremely urbanized area, the tornado caused massive devastaton, especially to the cities of Tempe and Mesa. Arizona governor Doug Ducey called for a state of emergency in Maricopa County during the outbreak, designating the southern Phoenix metropolitan a federal disaster area after surveying the damage on Novmeber 8, during the Arizona gubernational election. An estimaed, 10,500 homes were damaged or destroyed, with over 500 businesses and industrial buildings being damaged or destroyed. The tornado was the first of 2 tornadoes on November 7, 2022 to hit urban cities in Arizona, and is to-date the only violent tornado to hit the Phoenix area.

The tornado went straight through the heart of the Kyrene School District, destroying one elementary school in the district and heavily damaging two others. In addition, the homes of many staff and students were completely destroyed, leaving the school district in disrepair. The heavy damage to the educational infrastructure in Tempe and Mesa mirrored the damage that occurred in the Vista Unified School District in Vista, California ealrier that day after an EF5 tore through the city. One aspect of the city planning that was relatively undamaged, however, was the Phoenix area's power grid. unlike in Vista, where extreme damage to thousands of power lines and transformers left hundreds of thousands without power, most of the powerlines in Tempe and Mesa ran underground, protecting them from the tornado. This kept undamaged or slightly damaged homes in areas adjacent to extreme devastation with power, serving as a standpoint that would later be adopted by many cities in the plains and east coast.

Casualities

A destroyed home along East Drake Drive with only a staircase closet remaining, which sheltered a family of 4 during the tornado's passage

Similarly to the Joplin, Missouri and Tuscaloosa, Alabama tornadoes in 2011 and the Vista tornado earlier that day, this tornado unfortunantely had a staggeringly high number of fatalities and injuries associated with its track through urban spawl. Like Vista, most homes in areas hardest hit by the tornado did not have basements. Specifically in the newer neighborhood northwest of the Kyrene de los Niños Elementary School, where the most intense damage occurred, not a single house had basements, and the citizens who heeded the tornado emergency (many people recounted not taking it seriously due to living in Arizona and not experiencing a tornado before) were left looking for above ground shelters. In most cases, studies showed that the people who took cover in interior first floor rooms had the highest survival rate in the tornado, though the homes that were directly struck by the tornado at EF4 had no safe places remaining above ground. This, combined with the fact that the tornado had struck after school had let out, so must schools were unoccupied whent he tornado hit, caused over 80% of the deaths form the tornado to be from people in homes. 15% of the deaths occurred form people in vehicles, especially along highways 101 and 60, with a relatively few amount of deaths occurring in businesses or other settings, as most other buildings had stronger interior walls (i.e., 25 patrons and staff surviving a direct hit from the tornado in the walk in cooler of a restaraunt at the Tempe Square Shopping Center along East Guadeloupe Road).

Records

Cars tossed into each other in the parking lot of the Banner Desert Medical Center

The tornado set several records, especially pertaining to deaths and damage. With over 200 deaths, the tornado was one of the deadliest on record in the United States, and by far the deadliest in Arizona state history. Having destroyed a large number of both businesses, industrial workplaces, governmental establishments, homes, and vehicles, the damage toll was extremely as high. All of the damage was uninsured, as tornado insurance did not exist in Arizona, and damage to the Banner Desert Medical Center alone was estimated to be over $1.5 billion. These factors caused the tornado to, at the time, be the second costliest tornado on record, trailing behind the Vista tornado just 6 hours earlier.

Additionally, the tornado emergency issued by the National Weather Service in Phoenix was the first time in history a tornado emergency had been issued in Arizona, though it was not the last, as two other tornado emergencies would be issued later that day (Sierra Vista EF5 and Navajo Reservation EF4).



Path

The following gallery shows segments of the tornado's path where EF4 damage occurred.

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