FLAGSTAFF, AZ - The National Weather Service and Coconino County confirmed four total tornadoes struck northern Arizona on Wednesday.
Officials say two tornadoes touched down in the Bellemont area, about 15 miles west of Flagstaff. They were classified as F1-level, bringing winds between 86 to 110mph.
One reportedly touched down just one-quarter of a mile west of the Flagstaff National Weather Service Forecast Office, located in Bellemont. Mark Sahara with the Ponderosa Fire District confirmed another was spotted across the interstate from the fire station around 6:15 a.m.
A third reportedly hit at milepost 319 on Interstate 17 near Munds Park several miles south of Flagstaff, and a fourth near the Blue Ridge Ranger Station in the forests near Flagstaff.
NWS officials said a total of 22 tornado warnings went out Wednesday, as 200 homes were damaged and six injuries were reported.
Authorities said at a Wednesday press conference they had not seen this type of activity in Arizona in 15 years, but expect that the worst is now over.
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Coconino County Sheriff's Office spokesman Gerry Blair said multiple homes near Flagstaff have been damaged, with 15 of them being uninhabitable. Approximately 30 people have been temporarily relocated and the Red Cross is setting up an emergency reception center at Flagstaff Middle School, N. Bonito Street.
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The Associated Press reports windows on some homes are shattered and siding was torn off multiple houses.
Some front yard trees were torn out by the root. Wood and other debris is scattered over roadways.
Blair also said the Camping World RV Park in Bellemont reported that 30 RVs have blown over and the debris blew onto I-40, causing a traffic slowdown. I-40 and U.S. 180, in the Kendrick Park area north of Flagstaff, have both reopened after ADOT crews removed debris that blew onto the roadways. A number of ADOT crews are also working to clear the debris in areas near the Bellemont community.
DPS officials encouraged drivers to avoid traveling along I-40 between Flagstaff and Williams until conditions improved.
A citizen hotline has been activated for the public to obtain information and updates about the emergency. The number is 1-888-679-8393.
One tornado derailed 28 cars on a parked Burlington Northern-Santa Fe freight train.
BNSF spokeswoman Lena Kent says neither of the two crew members on the train were injured in the tornado.
The train was hauling cargo from ports in Los Angeles to the east and contained no hazardous materials.
The NWS has issued the following precautionary/preparedness actions:
The safest place to be during a tornado is in a basement. Get under a workbench or other piece of sturdy furniture.
if no basement is available, seek shelter on the lowest floor of the building in an interior hallway or room such as a closet. Use blankets or pillows to cover your body and always stay away from windows.
If in mobile homes or vehicles, evacuate them and get inside a substantial shelter.
If no shelter is available, lie flat in the nearest ditch or other low spot and cover your head with your hands.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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