Tornado touches down in Vancouver


A tornado downed power lines, uprooted trees, sent shopping carts flying into cars, and destroyed about 50 rowing shells moored at lakeside Thursday in Vancouver.

There were no immediate reports of injuries as the tornado cut through four miles from Vancouver Lake at the west edge of the town through the Hazel Dell area.

"It looks like we came through this pretty good," said Jim Flaherty, spokesman for the Vancouver Fire Department.

Utility officials said about 800 people lost power. The wind ripped swatches of shingles off buildings.

Bill Kalenius, president of Vancouver Lake Crew, said the storm destroyed two portable office buildings and caused major damage to the club's vessels. The rowing shells are worth thousands of dollars each, he said.

Connie Storey of Vancouver told KGW-TV she was walking her dog when the wind came up and "blew me across the street into my neighbor's cyclone fence, where I hung on for dear life."

She said there was an "explosion of power lines," and branches, garbage cans and recycling bins were strewn about.

The high winds lasted about 30 seconds before moving on, she said.

Another witness told of high winds nearly lifting her car at a supermarket and blowing shopping carts into vehicles.

The National Weather Service detected the tornado but couldn't estimate its wind speed, said Steve Todd, chief meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Portland.

Todd said the region of southwest Washington and northwest Oregon sees only one or two tornadoes a year, most often in sparsely populated areas.

"We do see more of actually what we call funnel clouds," he said. "Those are the same type of phenomenon, only they don't touch down. As soon as they touch down a funnel cloud changes from a funnel cloud to a tornado."

But, he said, Pacific Northwest tornadoes tend to be weaker than those of the Midwest.

On April 5, 1972, a tornado struck Vancouver, killing six people, injuring about 300 more and causing $3 million in damage. Among the injured were about 70 children from the Peter S. Ogden Elementary School, which was demolished.

AP staffers Typh Tucker and Anne M. Peterson in Portland contributed to this story.

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