'Sounded like a freight train': Video shows small tornado twisting through Monroe
MONROE, Wash. (KOMO) - Strong winds -- later confirmed to be a weak tornado -- caused some damage in Monroe Thursday morning. But luckily, no one was hurt.
A spotter in the city reported a "mini tornado" touched down near the Speedway RV Center on West Main Street in Monroe around 10:30 a.m. Nearby surveillance video showed "mini tornado" was an apt description, with a small funnel racing through the park.
"A huge gust of wind came in and... it started taking everything up," said Cody Anderson. "My trash cans were flying. My tent was flying everywhere. I was kinda hanging on it almost like a monkey in a sense trying to hold everything down. I heard crashing noises... it came in strong."
Photos from the scene showed two RVs had toppled over, one falling onto a car:
The car belonged to mechanic Tyler Muchoney, who normally would have been in the car at the time the tornado struck.
"Often times I'll take my break in my car," he said. "Decided to take it a little later today. I'm glad I wasn't in it."
He's also glad he drove in his older car to work. He had just bought a new Mustang.
The tornado continued down the street, and video from Air 4 showed some nearby homes that suffered damage, including some toppled fences and a blown trampoline.
"All of a sudden I heard what sounded like a freight train running through my front yard," said Mark Mills. "Came outside, looked over and saw the RVs upside down, my fence was ruined, my roof was ruined."
And Mills said he barely missed being outside with his dog when the twister struck.
"My dog was safely in the car," Mills said. "Five minutes earlier, it probably would have been ugly."
Doppler radar did indicate there was weak rotation in the area at that time:
The National Weather Service in Seattle examined the evidence, including the surveillance video and the fact that the damage showed wind speeds from different directions, and later confirmed that the incident was indeed a small tornado.
"The drag marks in the mud and gravel very well illustrated how far and what direction they were moved from. They did not all get pushed in a straight line. There was evidence of multiple directions for winds, supporting the evidence and tree damage noted," the National Weather Service said.
The agency gave the tornado a rating of EF0 on the Enhanced Fujita Tornado Scale, which ranges from EF0 to EF5. An EF0 tornado has an estimated wind speed of between 65 and 85 mph -- this particular tornado was estimated to have winds around 75 mph. It was on the ground for less than a minute for a distance of 100 yards, and had a width of about 15 yards, according to the National Weather Service storm survey team.
"Not a typical day in Monroe, that's for sure," Mills said.
The winds came as part of a Puget Sound Convergence Zone. Sometimes the Northwest can get "cold core" funnels that are weak and don't require supercells or severe thunderstorms to develop. They rarely touch the ground and in the off chance they do, damage is typically minimal.
Washington averages about two tornadoes a year statewide, mostly very weak. The only tornado to cause death or injury in the state was the Vancouver tornado on April 6, 1972 that killed six people and injured 300.