PORTLAND, Ore. — An EF-0 tornado touched down just northwest of Portland Sunday, the National Weather Service confirmed.
The twister damaged crops and some structures at a popular pumpkin patch where it hit.
The storm ripped 19 of 36 solar panels off a solar panel grid at the farm, it mangled a canopy tent near the front of the home and flattened several corn and pumpkin crops.
Even though stronger tornadoes than this EF-0 have passed through the area before, Sunday’s storm was enough to cause a mess to the Plumper Pumpkin Patch just weeks before it is set to open for the season.
Plumper Pumpkin Patch and Tree Farm owner Jim Kessinger joined meteorologist from the NWS in his fields Monday to survey the damage.
Kessinger is no stranger to twisters and says he knew what was coming his way when he looked out the window while eating dinner Sunday night.
“I'm from Kansas and so, I've seen a few tornadoes. And so that looked like a tornado,” he said. “And I keep watching them for a little while and I see there's a little bit of rotation and there's a draw – there's an upwelling of air.”
The storm rolled through, knocking barn doors off the hinges, lifting a tent before throwing it back down to the ground, and tossing dozens of solar panels around the property. However, it was the mark the twister left on the corn maze and in the pumpkin patch that helped the NWS determine it was indeed a tornado.
“There’s certainly damage in the crops that indicate there was something swirling in the damage. Some crops were pushed down one way. The other crops, adjacent crops, were pushed another way. So, that’s one indicator that you have something that’s more than just straight-line winds. There was circular motion to some of the damage,” NWS Portland Meteorologist Tyree Wilde said.
Photos of the storm popped up Sunday night all over social media, which has become an essential tool for the national weather service.
“Especially when we get reports in real time – we're watching the radar. It's extremely helpful to have those eyes on the ground,” NWS Portland Meteorologist Tryeena Jensen said.
The NWS also thanked their trained weather spotters for their help during the storm Sunday night.
Oregon and Washington average about four tornadoes a year, according to Wilde. While they are not necessarily common in the area, this storm serves as a reminder for storm preparedness.
“We always urge people to take protective action because you just don't know how strong it's going to be,” Wilde said. “So, if you are in the area of that tornado waning get to the inner-most room of your house or get to your basement to take protective action, because that could save your life.”
Kessinger does not know the exact cost of the damage done to his farm yet, but estimates it to be around $10,000. He told KGW Monday evening that he will likely have to replace his entire solar panel gird. However, his biggest concern is what the twister did to his corn maze. Plumper Pumpkin Patch will still have one, but it won’t be as big as the mammoth maze he was preparing.
“I'm really bummed about that. That was my best corn maze ever, biggest corn maze ever,” Kessinger said. “But we'll roll with it. That's all we can do.”
The pumpkin patch will open as scheduled Saturday, September 28.
Meanwhile, the NWS tells KGW that there were no damage reports in Vancouver, Washington where a second funnel cloud was spotted Sunday. Meteorologist ay it does not appear that a tornado touched down there.