Tornado Touches Down on Kitsap Peninsula, Rips Roofs off Homes, Weather Service Says

One home’s roof was torn off completely, revealing its second-story rooms to news helicopters above. Twenty homes were evacuated after a possible gas leak.

by Evan Bush, The Seattle Times / December 19, 2018

(TNS) — A tornado tore through a neighborhood near Port Orchard Tuesday afternoon, ripping roofs off of buildings and pulling trees to the ground, authorities said.

One home’s roof was torn off completely, revealing its second-story rooms to news helicopters above. Twenty homes were evacuated after a possible gas leak.

“Based on radar imagery and images we’ve seen from social media, it looks a tornado touched down near Port Orchard around 2 p.m.,” said Kirby Cook, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

About 50 buildings were affected, said Deputy Scott Wilson, of the Kitsap County Sheriff’s office.

“There are buildings with roofs off and trees down,” Wilson said. “I don’t have any numbers of anybody injured, or, God forbid, anybody deceased.”

At least seven homes were damaged, according to Bob Calkins, of the Kitsap County Department of Emergency Management.

Wilson said the tornado’s epicenter was near the intersection of Bethell Road Southeast and Southeast Salmonberry Road just outside of Port Orchard and a few blocks away from a Walmart Supercenter. The tornado traveled northeast.

The sheriff’s office described the damage as “catastrophic,” warning residents to stay out of the area or shelter in place. Power lines are down and gas lines are being checked for leaks, the office said in a tweet.

“This area has not been deemed ‘safe,'” the tweet said.

Calkins said authorities were investigating a reported gas leak in a neighborhood near Southeast Tiburon Court.

“There’s about twenty homes that we know of now that we’ve asked people to evacuate,” Calkins said, noting that he did not know if those homes had been damaged or if the leak was related to the tornado.

The evacuation area was in the Tiburon Court area west of Harris Road Southeast and between Lund Avenue Southeast and Salmonberry Road. Everyone else should take shelter, Calkins said.

The American Red Cross planned to open an evacuation center at 4 p.m. in the St. Gabriel Roman Catholic Church in Port Orchard.

“It’s raining really hard, so if people are out of their homes, we want to make sure they have shelter,” Calkins said.

The storm cell that produced the tornado has dissipated, Cook said. Meteorologists were not expecting tornado activity Tuesday, and it caught them by surprise.

“We do have thunderstorms in the forecast. We were not expecting any to be severe. Certainly this one was,” Cook said. “Part of the challenge with this kind of phenomenon — it’s so infrequent here. It’s hard to forecast. It highlights why folks should pay attention to the weather and be aware.”

Tornadoes are relatively rare in the Northwest. From 1950 to 2016, 120 tornado events were recorded in Washington state, according to storm event data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“We’re not Tornado Alley. This isn’t the Midwest,” Cook said. “We tend to get them in the cool months — this is a cold season event for us in the Northwest.”

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