Tornado strikes Oregon coast: 'Suddenly the sky was filled with debris'
Thousands left without power and about 40 people rescued at campsite as utility crews prepare for an even rougher storm throughout the weekend
Debris is strewn about after a tornado struck Manzanita, Oregon, on Friday. Photograph: Dave Killen/AP (with addition by me…J)
The Guardian Associated Press in Portland 15 October 2016
A tornado struck an Oregon beach town late Friday, sending debris flying and toppling power lines and trees as strong winds and heavy rain walloped the Pacific north-west.
Thousands of people were without power as utility crews in the region prepared for what’s expected to be an even rougher storm on Saturday.
In Seattle, a four-year-old boy and his father were injured by a falling tree branch Friday. The Seattle fire department said the child suffered serious injuries and the father minor injuries.
The coast guard and other agency officials near Port Angeles, Washington, had made several trips to rescue 40 teenagers and six adults who became stranded at an outdoor recreation camp after they lost power and downed trees blocked their way out.
The National Weather Service in Portland, Oregon, urged people to stay off roads as multiple streets in the city were flooded and impassable after heavy rains hit the area Friday evening.
The tornado was reported on the northern Oregon coast. Tillamook County sheriff Andy Long said it touched down in the city of Manzanita about 8.20am. There were no reports of injuries there.
Debbie Harmon, owner of the Amanita Galley, said most of the damage was near the beach and downtown.
“It was a normal beach storm, which we get a lot of, and then out of nowhere the wind went ‘whoooo’,” she said. “Suddenly the whole sky was filled with debris. It was just crazy. And then it just stopped.”
The mayor declared a state of emergency a necessary step for the small town 90 miles west of Portland to be eligible for federal disaster money.
Waves batter a seawall as water hits adjacent homes on Friday in Seattle. Photograph: Elaine Thompson/AP
Long said two businesses were destroyed and one home was uninhabitable. He says other homes have roof damage. The Red Cross opened a shelter for those affected.
Julee Ward, who lives between Manzanita and Nehalem, said she awoke to violent thunderstorms and an eerie, dark sky. Her husband went outside to check on things after 8am and called for her to come out.
“Behold there was this big tornado flying about a mile away from our house,” she said. “There was debris flying everywhere,” she added. “You could see the debris up in the funnel.”
Video shot by her husband showed a huge funnel spilling down from dark clouds.
“You could hear it howling, too, which was the crazy part,” she added.
The National Weather Service said another twister made landfall at about 9am near Oceanside, Oregon, but no damage was reported. A total of 10 tornado warnings were issued.
The heavy rain created dangerous conditions throughout the region, as drivers tried to see out rain-pounded windshields and navigate through standing water on roads.
In Oregon, Portland General Electric reported that more than 4,000 customers were without power early Friday. Pacific Power reported that 2,800 customers in coastal communities had no lights, down from a peak of more than 15,000. At one point, 15,000 customers were without power in Seattle.
Portland had the rainiest 13 October in its history. In addition, the National Weather Service says a 103mph wind gust was recorded at Cape Meares.
In Washington, Puget Sound Energy responded to scattered outages affecting thousands of people throughout the day. Lightning strikes hit the south-west Washington coast.
Meteorologists expect a lull before the remnants of Typhoon Songda, which wreaked havoc in the western Pacific days ago, hit the Pacific north-west on Saturday. Forecasters say wind gusts as high as 70mph could sweep through Seattle. Mayor Ed Murray urged residents to avoid the city’s many parks during the wet weekend weather.
The US army Corps of Engineers rushed on Friday to fix a 300ft section of a rocky coastal retaining wall in La Push, Washington. The jetty had previously failed and the only thing remaining was a gravel berm, according to a spokeswoman, Patricia Graesser. A breach of the wall would expose the Quileute reservation, a coast guard station, and a marina to direct Pacific wave action.
The same weather system is expected to affect northern California, bringing rain, wind and coastal flooding to the Bay area through part of Saturday. The storm also carried the potential for flash flooding in central Idaho, where nearly 300 sq miles of mountainous terrain burned in a blaze earlier this year.