Fast-moving thunderstorms prompted a tornado warning for portions of Grays Harbor County Friday morning. No tornadoes were observed in the area. The National Weather Service in Seattle issued the warning at 8:13 a.m. Friday after observing a rotating thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado over the Queets area, moving north at 35 mph. The alert expired minutes later. An email from the weather center Friday morning said thunderstorms ‘exhibiting brief rotation‘ were spotted and likely along the coast of Clallam, Jefferson, and Grays Harbor counties.
“Tornadoes in general throughout Washington are very uncommon, but as storms approach the shoreline they have more tendency toward low-level rotation, which is where we see the ingredients for a tornado,” explains Meteorologist Dr. Mary Butwin. She said thunderstorms along the coast are pretty common and brief waterspouts or tornadoes are possible with these types of storms. Rapidly evolving systems can spin up within minutes. But once the system hits land the energy quickly dissipates along with the chance that it might generate a tornado.
No tornado activity was reported Friday morning, however Butwin notes that touchdowns in sparsely populated areas of the state might go unseen.
Historically, Butwin says Washingtonians might see one or two tornadoes per year and sometimes no tornadoes for a couple of years. Just as likely are unobserved twisters along remote areas of Western Washington. Butwin says we’re hearing more about them now because the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is getting better at observing and forecasting for them as well as putting out warnings as quickly as possible.
“This morning the warning was prompted by a fast-rotating system that moved onshore and quickly dissipated.” Said Butwin, adding that it’s common to see offshore rotation but onshore rotation is when the warnings are considered.
The National Weather Service suggests that in the event of a tornado you should move to a basement or an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building. Avoid windows. If you are outdoors or in a vehicle, move to the closest substantial shelter and protect yourself from flying debris.
Warnings are issued through NOAA weather radios, social media, and subscriber services, find more details at weather.gov.