Tornadoes in Washington state more common than you think

Dec 18, 2018, 4:25 PM | Updated: 4:27 pm
(Image from KIRO 7 Chopper)
(Image from KIRO 7 Chopper)

Tornadoes, like the one that ripped through Port Orchard on Tuesday afternoon, are rare in Washington state, but they aren’t unheard of. The National Weather Service reports Washington state is hit by about 2.5 tornadoes per year, on average.

RELATED: 1972 Vancouver tornado deadliest of Washington state’s twisters

“But they are rare in December and in this region,” Jacob DeFlitch, meteorologist  with the NWS, told KIRO Radio.

The most deadly tornado on record was a rating of E3 in the Vancouver, WA area on April 5, 1972. The tornado killed six people and injured 300 people.

Ted Buehner, former meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Seattle, told historian Feliks Banel he remembers the storm that spawned the tornado. He was a high school student living in Portland at the time.

“It’s hard to believe, but Washington state actually led the nation in tornado deaths in 1972” because of the April 5 storm, Buehner said.

In 1997, Washington state recorded 14 tornadoes, and 12 of those occurred on three separate days, according to Buehner.

“They are all over the state. The bulk of them have occurred where people exist,” he said, at the time. “A lot of them are along the I-5 corridor from Portland up through Bellingham, and east of the Cascades along I-82 and I-90.”

On Dec. 10, 2015, a tornado damaged 36 homes and two businesses in Battle Ground, Wa. No injuries were reported. It had a rating of EF1, produced wind speeds up to 104 MPH and touched down in at least two spots along its two-mile long path.

According to the Tornado History Project, there have been 118 tornadoes in Washington state between 1954 and 2016. Most often, they’re rated an EF0 and EF2.

Buehner said that tornadoes often happen during the changing of the seasons, such as during spring or fall. Winter Solstice begins on Friday at 2:23 p.m.

RELATED: Spring is peak season for Washington tornadoes

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Tornadoes in Washington state more common than you think