Tuba City survives freak funnel cloud

Heavy, dark clouds moved suddenly into Tuba City late afternoon on Oct. 5 and at approximately 7 p.m. daylight savings time - without much warning - and a sand-blasting, dusty, freak funnel cloud gusted through town. The cloud wreaked havoc on electrical lines and line-high cotton wood trees all over Tuba City.

Area fencing, air conditioning units, storage sheds and playground equipment tossed about created much structural damage throughout this small agency town, affecting members of both the Hopi and Navajo Tribes.

Even children's trampolines became hazardous flying saucers landing in windows, horse corrals and car tops.

The storm lasted about 40 minutes, but when it was over, the whole town was in a state of emergency, which was formally declared by Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley. Shirley arrived by helicopter in Tuba City the following day.

Hopi Tribal Rangers were also in force checking both Upper and Lower Mungapi Villages located immediately adjacent to Tuba City proper. Several Hopi houses located in the Upper Village areas sustained serious roof and yard damage.

But surprisingly, at a 1 p.m. Friday afternoon "debriefing" of the ERT-TC (Emergency Response Team - Tuba City) there were only 56 patients recorded that requested treatment for very minor injuries. Only one patient was labeled "serious," suffering from dehydration. All patients were released immediately following treatment.

One injury sustained by a locally owned horse - the only animal emergency, according to Tommy Atha, the Director of Emergency Management for Indian Health Services for the entire Navajo Nation.

"In Texas, where I am from, horses do matter," Atha said.

The ERT-TC, which is comprised of 16 partnering community agencies within the Tuba City areas, immediately assembled at the Eubank Emergency Response Center. The center is located in the older wing of the Tuba City Hospital on Main Street.

Both generator and emergency electrical powered access at the TC community emergency response center, allowed for four open phone lines, Internet service and hospital service capabilities.

Even though the hour was late and the town was in darkness, maintenance and security crews for both the Tuba City Hospital and the Tuba City Unified School District were called in their entirety to assess immediate damage.

Both the Tuba City hospital and TCUSD were supported by the Navajo Nation Police Department, Hopi and Navajo tribal rangers and Tuba City District administrative personnel until approximately 2 a.m. Friday.

Tuba City mobilized quickly, including a Red Cross Emergency Center for affected homeowners who suffered the severest physical damage and were referred to emergency shelter and food at the Tuba City High School Warrior Pavilion. Food and water were donated by the local Dine' Basha's, supported through its Basha's Corporate offices in Phoenix.

All four Tuba City area schools were shut down to assess structural damage and to ensure the safety of its student population, which included the largest, Tuba City Unified School District, Moencopi Day School, Tuba City Boarding School and Grey Hills High School.

Community members from both tribes, banded together to assist APS serviceman in getting trees out of immediate electrical danger by helping to clear street debris, hoisting sandbags for flooded areas, as well as cutting trees with their own personal chain saws to clear hazardous areas and roadways.

When emergencies in the Tuba City area occur, the phone lines that are available for emergency response services through the Eubank Emergency Response Center in Tuba City are (928) 283-2803 or (928) 283-2199.

These emergency landlines are the only local area phones that have back up generator line power and provide immediate assistance or information for the Tuba City Community.

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