LONG BEACH — This is turning out to be the season of potential tornadoes on the south Washington coast.
“Later today, and continued through the overnight hours into early Sunday morning, there is potential for a few waterspouts. If a waterspout does form, it could move onshore as a brief tornado before dissipating,” the National Weather Service in Portland advised Saturday morning.
Waterspouts are tornadoes over water. They can easily overturn boats and create locally hazardous seas, but usually fall apart soon after reaching land.
One year ago, on Sept. 18, 2017, a tornado warning was issued after waterspouts were observed off Surfside and the north Oregon coast, along with powerful thunderstorms capable of producing tornadoes inside the Columbia River estuary. No waterspouts moved onshore a year ago.
A little more than two years ago, on Oct. 14, 2016, Manzanita, Oregon suffered damage from a tornado, while later that day three tornado warnings were issued in quick succession in Pacific County on account of dangerous thunderstorms.
The weather advisory for today, Sept. 15, states that there will be isolated thunderstorms with the potential for waterspouts.
“Showers and isolated thunderstorms will spread across the region today, and remain over the region well into Sunday. Some of these will produce heavy downpours and brief gusty winds. … Those along the coast, especially between Long Beach, Washington south to Newport, should keep an eye on the sky this afternoon through Sunday morning, and seek shelter if threatening weather approaches.”
Out on the water, squally weather is predicted to develop.
“Low pressure off the Pacific Northwest coast will push a cold front onshore into Washington and Oregon late tonight or early Sunday morning. Showers and squalls will increase later today and tonight, becoming more vigorous as the front approaches,” the weather service advises. “Stronger showers and squalls may produce a brief period of torrential rain, dangerous lightning, and gusty, erratic winds, with gusts up to 35 knots possible. Brief waterspouts cannot be ruled out, especially tonight as the front moves across the Washington and Oregon coastal waters. Mariners should be prepared for rapidly changing conditions on the coastal waters today through Sunday, and should remain in port if threatening weather approaches.”
If on or near the Columbia River during a thunderstorm, get away from the water and move indoors or inside a vehicle. Lightning can strike out to 15 miles from the parent thunderstorm. If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck by lightning. Do not be caught on the water in a thunderstorm.