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Forecasters confirm tornado

Plateau folks are still talking about, and cleaning up after, the tornado.

Two forecasters from the National Weather Service’s Seattle office came out Sept. 7 and assessed the storm. It didn’t take long for them to deem it an Enhanced Fujita Scale Level 1 (EF1) tornado.

The Enhanced Fujita Scale rates the strength of tornadoes based on the resulting damage. EF0 would be the weakest of tornadoes, EF5 the strongest and most devastating.

“It did quite a bit of damage for a weaker tornado,” said Jay Albrecht, a forecaster with the National Weather Service.

It was the pattern of tree damage, rotation and type of structure damage that formed their conclusion. Albrecht said Washington state records one to two tornadoes a year, but rarely one in western Washington.

According to the National Weather Service, the tornado formed near Lake Tapps and caused a path of destruction across Buckley and Enumclaw. It may have first touched down near the intersection of Vandemark Road East and 214th Avenue East in the Lake Tapps area, but did barely any damage.

Then it moved northeast at about 36 miles an hour. The greatest damage caused by the tornado occurred shortly after its initial touchdown. After skipping over a small valley, it touched down again around 4:20 p.m. along the Buckley-Tapps Highway East where it destroyed Art and Shirley Kaelin’s 92-year-old barn, blew roofing off an adjoining barn, destroyed a large silo, blew over a small travel trailer and snapped large branches off nearby trees. Debris was strewn up to 240 yards downstream across pastures. A couple of pieces of roofing were wrapped around trees.

Based on the damage, the tornado winds were estimated to be 100 to 110 miles an hour.

The Buckley-Enumclaw tornado continued to touch down intermittently during the next 15 minutes as it moved across Enumclaw. Along the rest of the path large trees with diameters between 10 and 21 inches were snapped off 20 to 30 feet above the ground. A few buildings lost pieces of roofing.

Oddly, the report noted, the tornado seemed to pass right over Westwood Elementary School and then two miles later went next to GE and B Nursery, where it caused more building damage. There it ripped plastic covers off greenhouses, blew off roofing and swirled tree stock. Across the road, Southeast 400th Street, large trees up to a foot in diameter were snapped off 35 feet above the ground.

More tree damage occurred along the rest of the tornado’s path as it snaked near King County Fire Station 94 and northeast of Bass Lake. A large tree, 21 inches in diameter, near Bass Lake snapped off. The end of the 9.6-mile damage path was along Enumclaw-Franklin Road, four milles north of downtown Enumclaw where pieces of trees were left strewn across the roadway.

That’s where Kelvin Schipper and Ashley Nichols saw it. They said the power went out, followed by two loud explosions and a white cloud. They thought a transformer blew or there was a fire. What they found was a tornado.

The National Weather Service’s full report and photographs can be seen at www.weather.gov/seattle.

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