PORT ORCHARD, Wash. - The National Weather Service says preliminary investigation shows an extremely rare tornado that touched down in Port Orchard on Tuesday was rated an EF 2.
“The purpose of the survey will be to assess the damage caused by the tornado, and make determinations of characteristics of the tornado - estimated wind speed, path length and width, time on the ground, etc.,” said Seattle National Weather Service meteorologist in charge Logan Johnson.
The team will look at the damage pattern left behind to assign its strength as follows:
- EF 5 – 200 mph
- EF 4 – 166 – 200 mph
- EF 3 – 136-165 mph
- EF 2 – 111-135 mph
- EF 1 86-110 mph
- EF 0 65-85 mph
The National Weather Service team is looking at about 400 to 450 homes during its damage assessment in Port Orchard and south Kitsap County. As of a 10:30 a.m. news conference, about 300 more homes had to be surveyed.
The team said it hoped it would have the assessment completed by the end of the day Wednesday.
Luckily, because most people were at work or school when the tornado touched down shortly before 2 p.m., no one was killed or seriously injured.
Downed power lines and trees litter the area, cutting electricity. Puget Sound Energy crews have been able to restore power to much of the affected area except for some of the most severely damaged homes. About 700 customers remained without power Wednesday morning.
Officials say drivers should use caution and allow extra time when traveling to and from the Southworth ferry terminal. Bus riders should check Kitsap Transit Rider Alerts for impacts to service.
Roads that remained closed or reduced Wednesday are Salmonberry Road from Branson to Bethel, and Bethel Road is down to one lane at Salmonberry Road.
Neighbors in the area are now faced with the task of cleanup. Some of the damage, like that seen at Salmonberry Dry Storage, has been catastrophic. Walls of the building were ripped down and its contents reduced to rubble.
KIRO 7 Chief Meteorologist Morgan Palmer said debris from the twister was thrown more than a mile high.
KIRO 7 spoke to a man whose home appears to have sustained the most damage. He said he still has reasons to be thankful.
“Nobody’s hurt. It’s just material things, and you know what? That can be replaced. My daughters, my son, my animals, they just can’t be replaced,” said Mueller.
Some people are waking up in a shelter after they were forced to evacuate. Evacuees made their way to Saint Gabriel Roman Catholic Church near the Town Square Mall on Bethel Road after the tornado tore through homes and businesses.
It was also feared there was a gas leak east of the Walmart Super Center, but none was found.
There are no tornado warning sirens in Port Orchard like there are in other parts of the country, so many people had no warning until the touchdown happened.
“I kept going, ‘Surely this can't be a tornado,’” said neighbor Shannon Volz.
“I really didn't think anything of it until I started seeing pieces of homes flying,” said Rebecca Hovfle.
Tornadoes in Washington
The National Weather Service said Washington state has an average of 2.5 tornadoes a year. The majority are in the EF 0 to 2 range.
December tornadoes are rare in Washington, averaging .01 a year.
The last tornado in Western Washington, EF 0, was on March 30, 2017 in Monroe.
Between 1954 and 2016, there were 118 tornadoes. Most were minor. In 1972, an EF 3 tornado hit Vancouver, Wash., killing six people.
What will be covered by insurance?
People impacted by the tornado now have to determine what will be covered by insurance.
The Northwest Insurance Council released information for those affected.
Damage from tornadoes and other windstorms are typically covered under standard homeowners’ insurance.
Damage to personal items inside a rental property are covered up to policy limits.
If your vehicle was affected, it's typically covered under comprehensive or other than collision policies.
Damage to any personal items inside a vehicle may be covered by homeowners’ or renters’ insurance.
Watch KIRO 7's initial team coverage below:
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