Rare Tornado Hits Pacific Northwest

A rare tornado tore through the southwest Washington city of Longview on Thursday evening, ripping roofs off buildings, downing power lines, uprooting trees, and shattering windows. Up to now, there are no reports of injuries.

Portland’s National Weather Service storm damage survey team indicated the EF1 tornado carved a path of 1.3 miles in Cowlitz County and contained winds of 86 to 110 mph, according to meteorologist Miles Higa.

“We’ve seen the footage and pictures available through different media outlets, and we can safely say there was a tornado. We will send up a team shortly to do a storm survey to determine how strong the tornado was,” the National Weather Service in Portland said prior to sending the team.

Rare as it is, city Fire Chief Phil Jurmu admitted his initial reaction upon hearing news of the tornado was surprise.

“I kind of furrowed my brow, probably, and said ‘What?'” he told KATU-TV of Portland.

Jurmu, alongside police and fire crews, responded quickly to the most effected areas and fenced them off with help from the nearby National Guard unit.

The Daily News of Longview reported that roofs were torn off an assisted living building and a towing company structure, among other buildings.

“After it (the piece of roof) went through, it was just absolutely howling. It was deafening; it was loud. That’s when we took cover…It ripped the back door, it’s a security door, it ripped it right off its hinges,” Ian McNew of Manchester Brothers, an appliance and sporting goods store, told KATU-TV.

Police Chief Jim Duscha told the newspaper that the city’s full extent of damage wouldn’t be clear until later in the evening on Friday.

Resident Andy Bernard was carving pumpkins at his home when the tornado hit and lifted his outdoor trampoline.

“It decided to take flight right at me and I ducked and the trampoline went into the house and it sucked it back out and up and over the roof and the garage, and down three quarters of the block,” Bernard said.

Tornadoes are not the standard in the state of Washington and the Pacific Northwest, where the nearby Pacific waters usually prevent severe temperature changes.

Three weak tornadoes have been reported in Cowlitz County since 1950, with the most recent in 2004, according to Dr. Greg Forbes, severe weather expert at The Weather Channel.