Strange but true: Seattle NWS has issued more tornado warnings in 2020 than Wichita

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SEATTLE — Here is another crazy weather statistic to toss into the pile in a year full of them:

Our area is leading parts of Kansas in tornado warnings so far this year.


It’s true: The National Weather Service office in Seattle has issued 4 Tornado Warnings so far this year — even stranger, they all happened in January. What tiny “tornado season” our region would normally have — if you could call an average of about two tornadoes statewide a “season” — would typically be in the spring.

Even STRANGER: It’s double the number of tornado warnings issued so far this year by the National Weather Service office in Wichita, Kansas! That, as you might know, is in the heart of Tornado Alley. But in 2020, that office had just had to push the warning button twice.

Our tornado warnings all came clumped together on Jan. 21 as a series of rotating thunderstorms moved off the Pacific Ocean and into the coast.

Four Tornado Warnings were briefly in effect for Aberdeen, Hoquiam, Quinault and parts of rural central Grays Harbor County after Doppler Radar indicated rotation was present and tornadoes were possible. But no tornadoes were actually sighted and no damage was reported. All warnings quietly expired or were canceled later a short time later.

The Washington Tornado Warnings came about 6 hours after a tornado did touch down along the northern Oregon Coast. National Weather Service forecasters in Portland said the EF-0 tornado went for about a quarter of a mile, causing minor damage at two properties on Kahnie Trail Loop but no injuries.

Tornado Warnings, meaning tornadoes have been spotted or radar-indicated, are exceedingly rare in the Pacific Northwest. It had been 1,925 days — over 5 years! — since the last Tornado Warning issued by the National Weather Service office in Seattle before that January “outbreak”. It’s been over nine years since a Tornado Warning has been issued by Spokane.

The National Weather Service in Wichita says neither of their two warnings led to an actual confirmed tornado and 2020 presents the longest stretch without recording a tornado there since 1950!

But it’s not like the Midwest hasn’t had its share of tornadoes. There had been 10 warnings issued over in Dodge City, Kansas’ office and several dozen have been issued in neighboring Oklahoma.

It just seems the tornadoes have managed to largely avoid southeastern Kansas so far this year.

by Scott Sistek (2020, Sept 16) KOMO News

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Kyrie Wagner