Funnel cloud crosses Garfield County, flash flood warning follows

This photo of a funnel cloud in Garfield County was taken on state Highway 12 facing towards Panguitch Friday. Garfield County, Utah, Aug. 26, 2016 | Photo by Ryan Fisher, St. George News / Cedar City News

GARFIELD COUNTY  – Threatening thunder and lightning storms brought a surprise in the skies over Garfield County Friday as a funnel cloud formed about six miles south of Panguitch.

This photo was taken Friday around 1:20 p.m. about 6 miles south of Panguitch. Garfield County, Utah, Aug. 26, 2016 | Photo by and courtesy of Garfield County Sheriff Danny Perkins, St. George News / Cedar City News
This photo was taken Friday around 1:20 p.m. about 6 miles south of Panguitch. Garfield County, Utah, Aug. 26, 2016 | Photo by and courtesy of Garfield County Sheriff Danny Perkins, St. George News / Cedar City News

Both funnel clouds and tornados are rotating columns of air that extend from the base of a storm cloud. The difference between them, according to the National Weather Service, is that a funnel cloud does not make contact with the ground, where a tornado is violent and makes contact with the ground.  Although most photographs of Friday’s cloud suggest it remained a funnel cloud, there are photographs and some who report it may have touched the ground.

Garfield County Sheriff Danny Perkins was traveling on Highway 21 about 2:45 p.m. when he saw the start of a tornado on the horizon and pulled over to watch it for about 10 minutes.

“It was really cool,” Perkins said “It was spinning around and we watched it for a while before it just went back up in the clouds where it came from.”

The cloud never actually hit the ground but came close at one point, Perkins said, adding that it was traveling in an unpopulated area so there would not have been any immediate threats to nearby communities even if it had touched down on land.

Perkins who grew up in Panguitch said he has seen several of these same type of funnel clouds through the years in Garfield County but never anything this big.

For a time the skies were dark with black clouds looming overhead but as quick as the fast-moving cloud developed it disappeared leaving behind no evidence it was ever there.

“It just back up into the sky, into the clouds, and it was kind of cool. The clouds opened up immediately afterwards and there was a gaping hole where the tornado had formed and the sun came shining through that hole,” Perkins said. “It was as though it was never there. It was really cool.

Dotted area denotes areas subject to flash flood alert issued by the National Weather Service at 3:55 p.m. The alert continues to 7 p.m. Friday. Garfield County, Utah, Aug. 26, 2016 |  Image courtesy of National Weather Service, St. George News / Cedar City News
Dotted area denotes areas subject to flash flood alert issued by the National Weather Service at 3:55 p.m. The alert continues to 7 p.m. Friday. Garfield County, Utah, Aug. 26, 2016 | Image courtesy of National Weather Service, St. George News / Cedar City News

Flash flood warning in effect to 7 p.m.

The Weather Service later issued a flash flood warning for south-central Garfield County that remains in effect until 7 p.m.

The notice indicated Doppler radar indicates a thunderstorm producing heavy rain over the Escalante River drainage in norther Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. At 4 p.m. more than an inch of rainfall had fallen and flash flooding could begin shortly.

“Flash flooding is expecgted along drainages flowing into the Escalante Reiver including Egypt 3…25 Mile Wash,” the Weather Service alert stated, “and  middle and east Moody canyons in south-central Garfield County.”

The service urges people in the area to remain alert even in dry areas including dry washes, streams and rivers that can become raging killer currents in a matter of minutes, even from distant rainfall.

St. George News Editor-in-Chief Joyce Kuzmanic contributed to this report.

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Email: tsullivan@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews | @tracie_sullivan

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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