Three tornadoes touch down in Big Horn Basin


It’s been a wild week for weather in Wyoming.

As rivers reached flood stages and snow fell in the mountains, tornadoes touched down Monday in several areas, including near Cody, Burlington and Worland.

“It looks like there were ... at least three [tornadoes] in the Big Horn Basin that we have reports of,” said Bill Murrell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Riverton.

The first touched down about 10 miles southeast of Cody in the Oregon Basin area at around 5:50 p.m.

“The one in Oregon Basin had multiple touch downs, which means it was lifting up and coming back down multiple times,” Murrell said.

Additional reports indicate a second touched down about 25 miles west-northwest of Worland at 6:15 p.m., followed by a third 4 miles west of Burlington around 6:21 p.m.

As of Tuesday, the Weather Service had not received any reports of damage from the Big Horn Basin’s tornadoes, Murrell said.

A tornado in the Kaycee area reached 110-120 mph and did cause some damage, he said.

“It is unusual for a strong storm system to be this strong in June to cause a large swath of severe weather with multiple tornadoes across northern and eastern Wyoming,” Murrell said.

This part of the state was also hammered with hail, including nickel-sized hail in Wapiti and ping-pong sized in the Manderson area. In the Powell area, hail was reportedly around pea-sized to marble-sized. Powell received between 0.5 to 0.6 of an inch of rain in Monday’s storm.

Local fields appear to have avoided major damage in the storm.

“There was some crop injury from it, but I haven’t heard of anything devastating,” said Jeremiah Vardiman, University of Wyoming Extension educator based in Park County. “A lot of ripped leaves and broken stems and things like that is what I’ve heard, but nothing where a potential crop failure could be, but it’s still probably a little early to see.”

As of Tuesday, he said the damage sounded minimal.

He said the biggest concern is that this kind of damage opens the plant up to disease, especially with dry beans.

“If there’s injury to those leaves, it just causes an open wound for diseases to take hold,” Vardiman said. “It’s not good for the crop.”

He said halo blight is a concern with dry beans, and it can be spread when raindrops hit a plant hard, splashing the pathogen from one bean plant to another.

“That halo blight can move in; it needs an open wound,” he said.

Aside from a very low percentage of fields, all crops have been planted in the area, Vardiman said.

All hail is bad for plants, but the light hail like the Powell area saw Monday tends to be less damaging, he said.

“We definitely don’t like to see any severe weather like what we had [Monday] night, especially a tornado warning and watches,” Vardiman said.