Are tornadoes becoming more common in the Pacific Northwest?

Like Don't move Unlike

PORTLAND, Ore. — Thursday started out like any other typical Northwest day, but as rain and hail moved in, everything changed when two EF-0 tornadoes popped up in Aurora and Vancouver.

No one was injured, but there were some reports of damage, including downed power lines and flipped planes at the Aurora State Airport.

“They are a rare thing so having two in one day is probabilistic-ally surprising,” Portland State University Assistant Professor Paul Loikith said.

He teaches a class on severe weather at PSU and says tornadoes can happen anywhere.

“If conditions are favorable in one place, weather patterns are large enough they can be conducive to creating another one,” Loikith said.

The quick temperature change from summer to fall can be the perfect storm of conditions to produce tornadoes.

“You are looking for a pocket of cold area well above our heads moving over to the warm, sunny surface and that can trigger these storms,” Loikith explained.

So far this year, we have seen three tornadoes: in Lacomb, Vancouver and Aurora.

Over the last nine years, there has been at least one a year in our area.

And almost one year ago, an EF-2 tornado tore through the coastal town of Manzanita.

“We are doing quite well,” Manzanita Mayor Mike Scott said. “Virtually all the damage that had been done to the building has been repaired… the winds were about 125 to 135 mph so everything they touched, they knocked down. It was spooky. We never had anything like that here before.”

But Thursday night’s storms brought memories flooding back.

“We had a big hail storm here, which we had a year ago, my wife and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, is it happening again?’” Scott said.

Luckily, Aurora and Vancouver didn’t see the winds Manzanita did.

Even with the three tornadoes so far this year, scientists do not believe it is a strange occurrence or one to be concerned about. The Pacific Northwest can see anywhere from one to three tornadoes a year, on average.

by Kellee Azar
October 13, 2017

the author

Kyrie Wagner