PHOENIX - Officials with the National Weather Service have confirmed that a tornado caused damage to a community near Payson.
According to a brief, earlier statement from the agency's office in Flagstaff, damage previously described as "wind damage" was reported in a town called Star Valley. A subsequent post made by the office on their social media page states that damage in the area was consistent with that of an EF-1 tornado.
The EF rating that NWS officials gave to the tornado refers to the Enhanced Fujita Scale. According to the NWS' website, the EF Scale, which is an improvement to the original Fujita Scale developed by Dr. Tetsuyta Theodore Fujita, has been used to estimate tornado wind speeds since 1971. Under the scale, a tornado can have estimated wind speeds from 65mph to 85mph as an EF-0-rated tornado, all the way to estimated wind speeds greater than 200mph for an EF-5-rated tornado.
The tornado, according to NWS officials, touched down for more than a mile.
Astonishing video captures tornado
Video taken by people in the area captured the tornado, as it wreaked havoc in the area.
"I have never seen anything like it in my life," said John Leslie, who was on his patio when he saw the tornado. "We saw shingles, plywood. I mean, it was just turning and turning."
"The noise, to me, sounded like when a truck is scraping ice off the road, going off a highway at 50 miles per hour, with the scrapers on the ground," said John Fox, Sr.
Fox Sr., along with his son John Jr., were startled by the chaos that they captured on their phones.
"Some people went to church, and when they came back, their lives were changed," said John Jr.
The tornado caused sizable damage to the area.
"We have very large trees that were knocked down, uprooted," said a fire chief in the area.
The tornado reportedly ripped through dozens of homes, sucking up roofs, crumpling street signs, and snapping trees like toothpicks.
"Nobody was hurt," said Mayor Bobby Davis. "That’s the big blessing right there."
Mayor Davis said families from about nine homes won’t be able to return to their house on Nov. 19. Those affected will be staying with family or community members.
Despite the devastation, the close-knit community of 2,600 people has come together.
"My understanding is that there are two churches that basically stopped their services during the day, and told their people to put on their boots and Levis on, and come and help out," said the fire chief.
"It just amazes me how they’ve all come together like this," said Mayor Davis.
Tornado leaves path of destruction; cleanup efforts underway
When fire crews first responded to the area by foot, the roadway was reportedly impassible due to debris.
"I looked out the window and saw the wind blowing," Mike Ferguson recounted. "Came out to the porch, and that’s when I noticed the front of the house coming to the back of the forest.:
Crew members have to cut their way into the area to render aid.
"Could have been a lot worse," said Desiree Christenson, who lives in the area.
On Monday, cleanup efforts remain ongoing.
"What we’re doing today is dragging all that brush out and cleaning up the mess," said Lance Chabot with Tree Crafters.
Tree Crafters is reportedly not charging anyone to remove trees from homes.
"We just care about people and the community we’re in, so it doesn’t make sense to capitalize on this as an opportunity to make money, as it does to just help and be a part of that community," said Chabot.
In all, nine homes in the area were seriously damaged by the tornado, including the home of Ferguson's mother, whose porch was ripped off its foundation.
Red Cross officials have put some families up in a hotel for a few nights. Those families can no longer stay in their homes.