VANCOUVER, Wash. — A rare tornado touched down Thursday in a residential area of Vancouver, downing power lines, uprooting trees, tossing shopping carts into cars and causing moments of fear.
Jim Flaherty, spokesman for the Vancouver Fire Department, said there were no reports of injuries.
“It looks like we came through this pretty good,” he said.
The extent of damage was unclear.
Utility officials said power to 1,200 customers was out.
Initial reports of roofs torn off buildings could not be confirmed.
Witnesses said a funnel cloud touched down in the Vancouver neighborhood Hazel Dell.
Sgt. Scott Schanaker of the Clark County sheriff’s office said the first calls came in just after noon. Shortly afterward, multiple phone calls came in reporting damage, primarily downed power lines.
Connie Storey of Vancouver told KGW-TV she was walking her dog when the wind came up and “blew me across the street into my neighbor’s cyclone fence, where I hung on for dear life.”
She said there was an “explosion of power lines,” and branches, garbage cans and recycling bins were strewn about.
The high winds lasted about 30 seconds before moving on, she said.
Another witness told of high winds nearly lifting her car at a supermarket and blowing shopping carts into vehicles.
The National Weather Service issued, and then canceled, a tornado warning. Meteorologists said they had detected the tornado but couldn’t estimate its wind speed.
“We saw the tornado on the radar … and issued a tornado warning,” said Steve Todd, chief meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Portland. “About the time we were issuing it, we got a report over there from the emergency management folks that they had gotten a touchdown and some damage.”
Todd said the region of southwest Washington and northwest Oregon sees only one or two tornadoes a year, most often in sparsely populated areas.
“We do see more of actually what we call funnel clouds,” he said. “Those are the same type of phenomenon only they don’t touch down. As soon as they touch down a funnel cloud changes from a funnel cloud to a tornado.”
But, he said, Pacific Northwest tornadoes tend to be weaker than those of the Midwest.