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A violent wind storm ripped through West Yellowstone on Saturday afternoon, tearing off huge sections of the Weston Motel's metal roof, knocking out power, uprooting trees and damaging homes and cars.

No injuries were reported from a storm that witnesses described as a dark, tornado-like funnel.

"It was like fast and furious," said Ginny Icopini, a 16-year West Yellowstone resident who works as a meat cutter at the Food Roundup Supermarket.

Icopini said she had been at work around 3 p.m., when a friend at the back door said, "‘Hey, you've got to take a look at this.'

"The sky actually was pretty amazing," she said. "The clouds were moving in a rotation ... faster and faster. The funnel came right over me and my coworker. All of a sudden, it just rained, there was debris, we saw shingles in the air.

"It was dark. It was huge. It covered the sky. I am absolutely sure I saw a funnel. Three of us saw it.

"It was pretty exciting," Icopini said. "We're like ‘Wow, look at all this. It just ripped right through town."

Monika Vojtkova, front desk clerk at the Best Western Desert Inn, said she, too, "saw a tornado."

Ray Burton, 75, had just clocked out from his shift at the front desk of the Best Western Weston Inn, and was walking outside with his wife, Helen.

Burton said he heard a door slam, blown open by the wind, and then saw the wind rip the canvas awning off the front of their mobile home, behind the motel.

"About that time the wind really started," he said. "I grabbed my hat, looked over my shoulder. All I could see was the roof ripped right off our building."

Photos taken by witnesses show hundreds of feet of metal roof were torn off the Weston, which is on the west side of U.S. Highway 191 at the corner of Canyon and Gibbon Avenue.

"I grabbed my wife's arm and said, ‘Start movin' it!'" Burton said. "It was almost blowing us over. I was trying to hold her up and dragging (her) at the same time. It was exciting."

The Burtons ducked into the back of the motel.

"It was dead calm, before and after," he said. "The only thing we're thankful for is, with all that devastation, nobody was injured."

Indy Johal, general manager at the Weston, said he got a call at home saying the "whole roof came off" the front of the motel.

"I have to evacuate everybody from the front of the building," Johal said. "Our back building is fine."

Most of the guests had been out visiting Yellowstone National Park when the storm hit, Johal said. "No one got hurt or anything."

Seeing all the debris around town was "pretty crazy," he added.

Neither the West Yellowstone Police Department dispatcher nor the National Weather Service could say Saturday evening whether or not the storm was actually a tornado.

Dave Williamson, NWS meteorologist in Great Falls, said some staff members were going to West Yellowstone to look into it, and for the moment they were calling it "damaging winds."

At the Holiday Inn, front desk clerk Bryan Fountain said there was a 20-foot pine tree down, blocking a lane of Yellowstone Avenue, and a power line was down.

Icopini also said trees blew over and hit some RVs and trailers, some vehicles had broken windows, and some homes had roof damage.

Dick Howe, owner of the KWYS radio station, said the station interviewed Jamie Green, the city manager, about the damage.

"To our knowledge, nobody has been hurt," Howe said.

Lindsey Welker, a visitor from Salt Lake City, was surprised to return to town from Yellowstone and hear people talking about "a tornado" and see all the damage.

"Right now, though, I can see blue sky," Welker said. "I'm hoping for more of that."

Karin Ronnow contributed to this report.

Gail Schontzler can be reached at or 582-2633.

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