Erratic wind flips boat

Joe Russo says he saw a funnel form during a Thursday windstorm and plow through All Storage, 2525 Riverside Parkway, picking up debris and pushing over and damaging a 40-foot pontoon boat. About a half-dozen steel panels - each weighing 40 pounds - were carried several hundred yards and tossed through the front gate. Russo is a caretaker at All Storage.

Joe Russo knows all about fierce winds and the havoc they can wreak, having spent 11 years as a firefighter digging fire lines with the U.S. Forest Service.

But he said he never witnessed anything like the weather event he saw Thursday in Grand Junction.

The caretaker of All Storage, 2525 Riverside Parkway, said strong winds that disrupted trash service in the Grand Valley and closed the Mesa County Landfill whipped into something similar to a tornado. Russo said it tipped over a nearly 40-foot-long pontoon boat at the storage facility, picked up and tossed sections of a steel fence several hundred feet and caused him and another employee to scurry for cover.

“I don’t want to see it again,” Russo said.

He and Donna Johnson were removing weeds from the storage facility lot just before noon when Russo said they saw something that “looked like ‘Twister’ the movie.”

A cone-shaped funnel formed over Connected Lakes State Park. The wind increased. The funnel widened and moved north across the Colorado River and into the lot of the storage facility. Russo said he could see the wind picking up and dropping debris.

“It ripped through here like nobody’s business,” he said. “It was bizarre.”

He and Johnson bolted across the lot and ducked under a large trailer. The wind swayed the pontoon boat back and forth before tipping it over on its side. It lifted several sheets of prefabricated fence 30 feet off the ground and over a shed and threw some of them onto Riverside Parkway. It ripped a couple of concrete posts out of the ground, according to Russo.

Motorists had to remove debris from the parkway. Items including tires and rims were floating in the river, he said.

National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Daniels said the office at Grand Junction Regional Airport recorded wind gusts as high as 49 mph but didn’t receive any reports about any weather events similar to a tornado.

Daniels said it’s possible what Russo saw was a “cold-air funnel” that occurs when a cold front moves in quickly and the atmosphere is unstable. The combination can kick up items on the ground, he said.

The wind was severe enough to force the closure of the landfill and the city of Grand Junction to delay trash pickup until today.

The unsettled weather will continue today in Grand Junction, with forecasters calling for a 50 percent chance of rain and snow, wind gusts as high as 30 mph and a high temperature of 49 degrees.


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