Middlegate tornado? Residents say it was like one
September 5, 2017
This year's unpredictable, wacky weather sweeping across central Nevada still has some stories remaining.
Strong, blowing wind moving north along Nevada state route 361 ripped the roof off the Middlegate Motel and caused other damage Monday afternoon sometime between 2:30-3 p.m.
Meteorologist Scott McGuire said the National Weather Service re-examined its data on the storm system and relied on eyewitness accounts and photographs, both provided by the Lahontan Valley News.
"I'm pretty confident it was just a microburst and the associated thunderstorm outflow winds," McGuire said.
But to the residents of Middlegate, which is 45 miles east of Fallon along U.S. Highway 50, they're not too sure.
"This is the most powerful winds I've seen," said Russell Stevenson, co-owner of Middlegate Station Restaurant and Motel who has lived on that piece of property for 32 years.
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He said the wind tore off three sections of the roof and one piece landed about 120 feet west of the motel. The wind also ripped off a swamp cooler and tossed steps on to a center section of the roof.
"I saw a wall of dust moving toward us at a fast rate of speed," said Travis Anderton, Stevenson's grandson. "I saw a microburst inside it. It was weird … 95 degrees and raining."
Fredda Stevenson said it looked and sounded more like a tornado. She said several motel guests saw the wall of dust moving across the desert and ran into their rooms and ducked.
"I couldn't see anything, but it sounded just like a freight train," she said.
Rose Pope said the wind was blowing hard, especially when it swept over the motel.
"I watched the roof peel off like a sardine can," she said.
According to the eyewitness reports, the wall of dust stayed on the ground for about 15-25 minutes and then disappeared to produce generally clear skies and a rainbow. The winds began blowing hard again and changed directions for 8 to 9 additional minutes.
"I couldn't see 6 inches in front of me," Anderton said. "I looked out my window, and it was dark."
Before the storm pattern disappeared, Fredda Stevenson and Pope said they both saw a vortex inside the wall.
Although the damage is minimal, the Stevensons are asking their friends and patrons to come to Middlegate and help them restore the roof, swamp cooler and steps.
"It's like barn building," she said.
Anyone interest in helping may call Middlegate at 775-423-7134.