LONGVIEW, Wash. – A rare tornado ripped roofs off buildings, uprooted trees and shattered windows Thursday afternoon in the southwest Washington city of Longview, but there were no reports of injuries.
A National Weather Service storm survey team from nearby Portland, Oregon, estimated the EF1 tornado carved a path of 1.3 miles and packed winds of 86 to 110 mph, meteorologist Miles Higa said.
Longview Fire Chief Phil Jurmu admitted his first reaction was disbelief.
"I kind of furrowed my brow, probably, and said `What?"' he told KATU-TV of Portland.
Still, police and fire crews responded quickly to the hardest-hit area and cordoned it off with help from the National Guard, which has an armory nearby, Jurmu said.
Police Chief Jim Duscha told the Daily News of Longview the full extent of damage wouldn't be known until Friday. Crews quickly started cleaning up under sunny skies that followed the windstorm.
Roofs were torn off an assisted living building and a towing company structure, the newspaper reported.
Tornadoes are rare in Washington state and the Pacific Northwest, where the nearby Pacific Ocean generally prevents severe temperature changes.
The Rev. Eric Atcheson said he saw the funnel cloud form and touch down near his church. He barely made it inside before the wind tore through an alley between two church buildings.
"There is a pre-school in the building, so I was able to make sure all our kids and teachers are safe," he said.
The church didn't sustain any damage but several trees were knocked down, he said.
At Manchester Brothers appliance and sporting goods store, a large piece of roof from another building crashed through a store window and pushed a row of refrigerators about a foot from where they had been sitting.
After the roof section blew through, "it was just absolutely howling. It was deafening," Ian McNew told KATU-TV. "That's when we took cover.
"It ripped the back door, it's a security door, it ripped it right off its hinges."
No one in the store was hurt.
Andy Bernard took a break from carving pumpkins at his home to see what was making so much noise. That's when the tornado lifted his outdoor trampoline.
"It decided to take flight right at me and I ducked and the trampoline went into the house and it sucked it back out and up and over the roof and the garage, and down three quarters of the block," he told KGW-TV.
Denny Malloy recalls driving through Longview as the wind started swirling around his truck.
"I saw what looked like an enormous dust devil and then these large panels off a roof started falling everywhere," he told KGW.
While tornados in the area are rare, the Weather Service's Higa said one packing winds of 136 to 165 mph struck Vancouver, Washington, just across the Columbia River from Portland, in April 1972.
Longview is located about 50 miles north of Portland.