PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A tornado struck an Oregon beach town Friday, sending “debris flying everywhere” and toppling powerlines and trees as strong winds and heavy rain walloped the Pacific Northwest.
Thousands were without power as utility crews prepared for what’s expected to be an even rougher storm on Saturday.
The National Weather Service issued tornado warnings Friday morning for southwest Washington and northwest Oregon. A tornado was reported on the northern Oregon coast. Tillamook County Sheriff Andy Long said it touched down in the city of Manzanita at about 8:20 a.m. There were no reports of injuries, but the mayor declared a state of emergency. That’s a necessary step for the small town 90 miles west of Portland to be eligible for federal disaster money.
Long said two businesses were confirmed destroyed and one home is uninhabitable. He says other homes have roof damage. The Red Cross opened a shelter for those affected.
Debbie Harmon, owner of the Amanita Galley in Manzanita, said most of the damage is near the beach and downtown.
“It was a normal beach storm, which we get a lot of, and then out of nowhere the wind went ‘whoooo,’ she said. “Suddenly the whole sky was filled with debris. It was just crazy. And then it just stopped.”
She said several fallen trees were in the road and emergency vehicles rushed to the beach area about 90 miles west of Portland.
Julee Ward, who lives between Manzanita and Nehalem, said she awoke to violent thunderstorms and an eerie, dark sky. Her husband went outside to check on things after 8 a.m. and called for her to come out.
“Behold there was this big tornado flying about a mile away from our house,” she said. “There was debris flying everywhere … you could see the debris up in the funnel.”
Video shot by her husband showed a massive funnel spilling down from dark clouds above.
“You could hear it howling too, which was the crazy part,” she added.
The heavy rain created dangerous conditions for the morning commute in the Northwest, as drivers tried to see out rain-pounded windshields and navigate through standing water on the roads.
Several school districts across the region delayed start times because of the weather.
In Oregon, Portland General Electric reported that more than 4,000 customers were without power at 5 a.m. Friday. Pacific Power reported that 2,800 customers in coastal communities had no lights, down from a peak of more than 15,000. At one point Friday 15,000 customers were without power in Seattle.
Portland had the rainiest Oct. 13 in its history. The National Weather Service says a 103-mph wind gust was recorded at Cape Meares.
In Washington, Puget Sound Energy responded to scattered outages affecting thousands throughout the day Friday. Lightning strikes hit the southwest Washington coast Friday morning.
In northern Nevada, winds gusting up to 76 mph are fueling a 750-acre wildfire that’s burning out of control south of Reno, forcing evacuations, closing roads and schools and leaving thousands without power.
Meteorologists expect a breezy Friday before the remnants of Typhoon Songda, which wreaked havoc in the western Pacific days ago, hit the Pacific Northwest region Saturday.
Forecasters say wind gusts as high as 70 mph could sweep through Seattle. Mayor Ed Murray urged residents to avoid the city’s many parks during the wet weekend weather.
“We’re advising people to stay away from our parks as the soil becomes saturated, and the winds pick up,” Murray said.
The same weather system is expected to affect Northern California, bringing rain, wind and coastal flooding to the San Francisco Bay Area through part of Saturday.
The storm also carried the potential for flash flooding in central Idaho, where nearly 300 square miles of mountainous terrain burned in a blaze earlier this year. National Weather Service officials warned that with the vegetation and trees destroyed and about three inches of rain expected, Boise County could be in danger of flash flooding, landslides and debris flows.
© Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.