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Jan-10-2008 17:35TweetFollow @OregonNews
NOAA Rates Thursday's Tornado in Washington as an EF-1Tim King Salem-News.com
"In the big scheme of things this was not a monster tornado, but around here this is about as big as they get." - Andy Bryant of the NOAA
(VANCOUVER, Wash.) - A tornado made a touchdown in Washington state today, knocking power lines out, ripping trees out of the ground, and blowing the roofs off of homes. The game was on, and after traveling for 200 yards, the weather heavyweight reportedly moved out of Vancouver and traveled northeast.
There were no reported injuries today in Washington, but KGW-TV reports that people have experienced extreme weather conditions including four-inch hail, high winds and dark clouds. Along with those conditions came numerous sightings of above ground twisters, or funnel clouds.
The tornado was spotted south of Hockinson High School in Clark County at 12:45 PM. It reportedly was just west of 172nd Avenue at that point, according to the National Weather Service.
Andy Bryant, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Portland, told Salem-News that the occurrence here is pretty rare. "We probably get one or two a year that are reported somewhere in NW Oregon or SE Washington. Most are very brief, sometimes they aren't even tornadoes, just funnel clouds that touch down."
He says that for the Northwest, this was one of the most exceptional in recent time. They have dispatched a crew to survey the impacted area.
"We have a couple of folks in Vancouver on the ground focusing on the area that was impacted, trying to assess the severity of the tornado from the damage that they see."
Bryant explained that the area affected by the tornado began at 78th Street at Vancouver Lake, extending over into Hazel Dell at Highway 99 and 78th Street.
"It made a path about 2 miles long and a quarter mile wide. There were about a dozen homes with roof damage, a couple hundred trees, some that were pretty large."
When tornadoes do come to the region they often cause property damage, but people are rarely affected here when it comes to injuries and death. Sadly, that wasn't the case though 35 years ago, when a tornado fatally touched the ground in Washington.
"April '72 stands out, there were several fatalities in that one, I can't think of any in recent years where we have had any injuries," Bryant said.
How Did it Rate?
Bryant says tornadoes are typically rated on what is called the "Fujita Scale".
"This one from today is rated as an EF-1 right now, we're still working on damage assessment and it could be revised, but that has to be pretty close" he said.
That means the winds from this tornado were reaching speeds that ranged between 90-110 mph.
"As a means of comparison, the tornado that wiped out a small town in Kansas a few months ago and completely leveled it, that was an EF-5. The grade is based on how large the tornado is and it takes into account its destructive power."
Bryant says today's tornado didn't exactly rock the scales, but it is still an unusual and potentially dangerous weather hazard for the Northwest states.
He concluded by saying, "In the big scheme of things this was not a monster tornado, but around here this is about as big as they get and people are talking about it."
Tornadoes may be unusual in the Northwest but they have caused substantial damage to both Oregon and Washington over the years. DisasterCenter.com reports that Washington, when compared with other states, ranks number 43 for frequency of Tornadoes, 29 for number of deaths, 27 for injuries and 46 for cost of damages.
If you compare those statistics to other states by the frequency per square mile, Washington ranks number 47 for the frequency of tornadoes and damage cost, and number 32 for fatalities. Those figures are based on data from 1950 - 1995.
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