Something rare happened near Seattle on Tuesday — a tornado touched down in Port Orchard, causing “catastrophic damage” before an official warning could be sent out, according to local reports.
The National Weather Service office in Seattle confirmed Tuesday night that a tornado touched down near Port Orchard just before 2 p.m.
An official damage assessment is being conducted, but local authorities said homes, trees and power lines were toppled by the tornado.
KCSO, Port Orchard PD and several fire agencies have responded to a weather event that has caused catastrophic damage in the Port Orchard area. Most of the damage is contained to the area and neighborhoods east and south of WalMart….more
— Kitsap Sheriff (@KitsapCoSheriff) December 18, 2018
KIRO-TV reported the tornado hit so quickly that officials had no time to send out a warning. The tornado was likely on the ground for about a minute, according to the report.
While weather experts are still assessing the tornado’s strength, it could have been anywhere from an EF-1 to an EF-2 on the Enhanced Fujita scale. Tornadoes in that range have wind speeds of 86 to 135 mph.
KOMO-TV obtained footage of the rare event from Matthew Hargis, who captured the tornado footage from a Safeway parking lot on Tuesday.
TORNADO IN PORT ORCHARD: A tornado touched down in Port Orchard this afternoon.
Matthew Hargis captured this video in the Safeway parking lot earlier today.
Video courtesy: Matthew Hargis
— KOMO News (@komonews) December 18, 2018
Tornadoes in Washington are rare, and tornadoes in December are even rarer, according to the NWS.
The state sees about two tornadoes a year on average, with only an average of 0.1 tornadoes occurring in December.
University of Washington atmospheric scientist Cliff Mass said a strong tornado at this time of year was “very unusual.”
“This is not the first tornado that formed in the wind shear zone in the lee of the Olympics,” Mass, an expert in Pacific Northwest weather, wrote in a blog post. “Several others have occurred during the past decades, such as one near Poulsbo in April 1991.”
“Such weak tornadoes are relatively rare, since everything had to happen perfectly, with the shear and a strong storm coming together at the right time and place,” Mass wrote.
Tornado activity across the U.S. hit a record low this year, according to federal data.
Through early October, tornado activity was the lowest in at least 65 years of record-keeping. Since then, tornado activity has picked up across the country with 982 such events occurring through December.
Globally, there is little evidence that tornadoes have become more frequent or intense, according to the United Nations’ most recent climate report that was published in October.
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