Living Off Grid - Tornado in Washington State?

| 8/16/2012 10:51:05 AM

rs 08The sky was black at 4:00 pm on Friday, July 20, 2012. It had been getting darker and darker all day long. Finally the thunder and lightning kicked in and then the rain and hail started coming down. Biggest hailstones I have seen in person although I know they can get even bigger.

It’s actually kind of fun to watch these kinds of storms out our front windows. The only things I ever worry about are the solar panels being hit by giant hail or direct lightening strikes. So far no worries.

It rained so hard for so long that I went down to the barn to check the one drain pipe we have on the property to see if it was being overwhelmed and that’s when lightening hit right over our house. No way I was going to walk back to the house until it settled down or moved on. After about ½ hour I felt safe enough to venture back out and get to the house.

The storm continued on all night. Worst storm I have ever been around. We got up the next morning and were glad to see we didn’t have any damage anywhere. I wasn’t so sure about our access road though. It is 3 miles long and drops over 1000 feet from our house to the highway. It’s a perfect scenario for washout. I know how to build roads and this one wasn’t built. They just took a D8 Cat and ran up the hill once and back down. No culverts or water channels – nada.

We had to go to town so I loaded a shovel into the back of the big 4 wheel drive truck and took off. It turns out there was very little damage to our road so that was good. The nearest town is 20 miles away – Republic, WA. We usually go there once a week for fresh produce that isn’t in season at our house.
We noticed the closer we got to town the more trees we saw down alongside the road and further into the forest.

Power PolesWe got to town and went to Les Schwab to pick up one vehicle they had worked on. As I drove by the school I saw trees down and power poles snapped in two. For the first time in my life I saw loggers working side by side with power linesman. Usually the power company does their own cleanup.

At the Les Schwab store we learned power was out for the whole town. We left there and stopped by the grocery store in case they had emergency power and were in business but they weren’t. They were handing out free ice to the local residents for their ice chests trying to save some of their food. It turns out that every single business and home was without power in all of Ferry County.

I grew concerned about a family friend and went to see them. As I drove down their road I saw tree after tree down on his fences and everyone else’s as well. That’s when I knew this was no ordinary storm.

After we got home, two days later I finally found one little paragraph of news on a station out of Spokane. It turns out the Governor had 16 counties declared an emergency disaster area in Washington State. Even Fema showed up. Because most of these areas are so rural and have no local weather stations and because there was almost no media coverage it was hard to get accurate information on the statistics of the storm.

Ken Lohmann
8/21/2012 6:26:10 PM

Sounds like stright line winds which can reach hurricane speeds. All states can see tornados and NOAA has a chart which shows the amount of days on average per year that a tornado can occur in a state:

Ed Essex
8/17/2012 11:36:28 PM

Jessica, You are right. I just drove through Republic to the Les Schwab. I didn't go to the Pine Grove Junction. Good for them for having full backup power to service the community! The article was correct. All business's were without public power in and around Republic including Pine Grove Junction. As for tornadoes, in Washington State they are very rare. We are listed 47 our of 50 for frequency and 49 for $damage per capita. When we do have them they are usually of the F0 or F1 force. NOAA has a list of the top 10 storms in Washington State for the past 100 years. There isn't one tornado listed. I still don't know if this was a tornado or just an excessive gust of wind. If the infromation is out there I sure couldn't find it.

Karl Volkman
8/17/2012 5:50:07 PM

Also, It should be noted that 166mph winds are normally classified as Category 4 Hurricane force winds, and not tornado force winds, which is not used.

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