While no one was injured, local residents are still shaken after yesterday afternoon’s tornado that ripped through Longview and West Kelso, leaving a mile-long path of damaged buildings, wrecked cars and shattered trees in its wake. The Weather Service is now classifying yesterday’s twister as an EF-1 tornado, which is on the lower end of the six-step Enhanced Fujita Scale. Wind speeds were estimated to be between 86 and 100 miles an hour, with a track estimated to be about 1.3 miles in length.
Longview Police Chief Jim Duscha says that the tornado first touched down in the Highlands, just after 1 pm. The tornado tracked north-northeast, snapping off trees at the lake and damaging a roof on a senior apartment building off of 17th Avenue before sweeping down Commerce and Vandercook Way, where it appears that the worst damage was done. Duscha says that it came right by his office window at 14th and Hudson. Trees were sheared off along Commerce in front of the Columbia Theatre as the tornado continued down Vandercook Way. Roofs were sucked off of several buildings, and a portion of the wall at Carl’s Towing was ripped off. A large corrugated fiberglass roof that covers some outdoor storage at Searing Electric and Plumbing was completely lifted off; a large chunk flipped over the building and landed in the plate glass windows fronting Manchester Brothers. Other chunks were scattered for several blocks, along with other debris from trees, fences and other items. Several more trees were knocked down in West Kelso, including one that landed on the drive-through at the Fibre Federal branch on 5th Avenue.
Response to the tornado was immediate, with personnel and heavy equipment on the scene within minutes to begin cleanup. Vandercook Way was closed immediately after the storm, but re-opened to traffic by 4 pm. City officials and engineers are now inspecting damaged buildings, to see if any will need to be condemned. They haven’t said yet how many buildings were hit, and there’s no dollar estimate on the total damage done. Assessments are continuing, and more information should be released later today.