(Reuters) - A small coastal town in Oregon was clobbered on Friday by a rare tornado that ripped roofs from buildings, toppled trees and tore down power lines as the first of two storm systems forecast this weekend unleashed high winds and heavy rain across the Pacific Northwest.
The twister left most of Manzanita, a community of some 600 permanent residents in the northwest corner of Oregon, without electricity and more than two dozen homes uninhabitable, though no injuries were reported, City Manager Jerry Taylor said.
The tornado was spawned by a major Pacific storm sweeping coastal portions of Oregon and Washington state even as the region braced for harsher weather forecast by the National Weather Service from remnants of a typhoon expected to arrive on Saturday.
High winds, gusting to gale-force speeds, were reported by the weather service across the Puget Sound area of Washington with more than 100 lightning strikes recorded over coastal waters in a single hour at one point.
The weather service said about 20,000 Seattle-area homes and businesses were without electricity on Friday morning.
Beginning as a waterspout first spotted just offshore, the Manzanita tornado raked a half-mile long path of destruction through commercial and residential sections of town just after 8 a.m. local time, much of it along the community’s main street.
About half the roof of a building housing an ice cream parlor and two other shops was torn off and hurled into an adjacent parking lot, while a nearby stationery store sustained similar damage, Taylor said.
Numerous houses were damaged, including 28 left red-tagged as unsafe for occupation, according to Taylor. The community was littered with fallen trees, strewn debris and tangles of downed wires and utility poles.
Mayor Garry Bullard declared a state of emergency seeking disaster recovery assistance.
Taylor said damage from the twister could leave the town especially vulnerable to more severe weather forecast for the entire region on Saturday as the remnants of Typhoon Songda, a tropical cyclone that formed in the western Pacific, move ashore.
The National Weather Service said that the Seattle area could see wind gusts of up to 70 miles per hour on Saturday, warning on Twitter: “It’s not the ‘storm of the century.’ But it has [the] potential to be significant for Seattle.”
Mayor Ed Murray said Seattle’s homeless shelters were expanding their capacity in anticipation of the storm.
Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; editing by Grant McCool