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Oregon Tornadoes Rare But Dangerous

OPB | Dec. 14, 2010 9:35 a.m. | Updated: July 17, 2012 1:06 a.m. | Portland, OR

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Oregon isn’t a state that comes to mind when talk turns to tornados — you’re more likely to think of Kansas or Oklahoma.

But the Willamette Valley has spawned some nasty twisters over the years and it’s usually during the kind of weather we’re currently experiencing.

The Aumsville tornado is the first twister to touch down in Oregon since Dec. 9th, last year — when Lincoln County was hit.

The Nation Weather Service says there were no injuries during that event, but 11 homes and three cars were damaged.

Clinton Rockey, a meterologist. with the National Weather Service, says tornadoes happen when warm and cold air mix.

Clinton Rockey: “We had a very warm weekend. All that warm air and rain. Now we’re beginning to transition back into a more typical air mass for this time of the year and that means cooler air for us. And when we get cooler air aloft we’re still somewhat warm in the low levels of the atmosphere that begin to set up what we call a very unstable air mass. And it’s those air masses that we have to deal with that help pop-up these showers and thunder storms.”

Over the last decade, Oregon has had about four tornadoes. They all caused property damage, but no injuries.

In the 1990s, at least 16 tornadoes touched down. Again, no people were injured. But six cows were killed at a dairy near Newberg in 1993.

Rockey says the National Weather Service won’t be sure about the size of the Aumsville funnel cloud until staff having finished taking measurements of the damage on the ground. But he thinks it was probably an F-zero or F-1 cloud, on a scale that reaches to F-5.

He also says it didn’t just appear and disappear in Aumsville.

Clinton Rockey: “Actually started off out to the southwest of Salem earlier this morning, producing some small hail, heavy rains and gusty winds. , around 11:15. That storm moved across mid-valley. Got stronger and by the time it got into the Aumsville, Stayton area, it was in good shape.”

Rockey doesn’t think it was as big as the F-2 tornado that long-term Oregonians may remember cutting through North Portland and Vancouver in 1972. That one killed six people, injured 300 and caused $3 million  in damage.

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