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‘Catastrophic Damage’: Rare Tornado Touched Down In Big City Before Officials Get Out Warning

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor
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Something rare happened near Seattle, Washington, Tuesday. A tornado touched down in Port Orchard, causing “catastrophic damage” before an official warning could be sent out, according to local reports.

The National Weather Service (NWS) office in Seattle confirmed Tuesday night “that a tornado touched down near Port Orchard just before 2pm on December 18.” An official damage assessment is being conducted, but local authorities said homes, trees and powerlines were topped by the tornado.

A local CBS affiliate reported the tornado hit so quickly, officials had no time to send out a warning. The tornado was likely on the ground for about one minute, according to the report.

While weather experts are still assessing the tornado’s strength, it could have been anywhere from an EF-1 to an EF-2 on the Enhanced Fujita scale. Tornadoes in that range have wind speeds of 86 to 135 miles per hour.

KOMO News obtained footage of the rare event from Matthew Hargis. Hargis captured the tornado footage from a Safeway parking lot on Tuesday.

Tornadoes in December are rare, according to NWS. Washington state sees about two tornadoes a year on average, with only an average of 0.1 tornadoes occurring in December.

University of Washington atmospheric scientist Cliff Mass said a strong tornado at this time of year was “very unusual.” (RELATED: Scientist Speaks Out After Being Bullied By University Of Washington Climate Zealots)

“This is not the first tornado that formed in the wind shear zone in the lee of the Olympics,” Mass, an expert in Pacific Northwest weather, wrote in a blog post. “Several others have occurred during the past decades, such as one near Poulsbo in April 1991.”

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“Such weak tornadoes are relatively rare, since everything had to happen perfectly, with the shear and a strong storm coming together at the right time and place,” Mass wrote.

Tornado activity across the U.S. hit a record-low this year, according to federal data. Data through early October showed tornado activity was the lowest in at least 65 years of record-keeping. Since then, tornado activity has picked up across the country with 982 such events occurring through December.

Globally, there is little evidence that tornadoes have become more frequent or intense, according to the United Nations’ most recent climate report that was published in October.

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