Recognizing tornadoes

Damaged willow tree on Mt. Carrol Street June 2007 tornado


23 July 2014 at Oak Crest Manufactured Home Park


Returning to my home on the day of 23 July 2014, the maple tree had been sheared, heavy limbs had crashed down on my neighbor’s back deck and buried one of my raised beds. Interestingly enough, the container garden on the deck was unscathed.


The Weather Channel finally acknowledged that two types of tornadoes are known to exist. One type, common to the midwest, is a thunderstorm producing funnel cloud. The other type, is referred to as a dynamic tornado. More commonly thought of as a whirlwind. You may or may not see a funnel cloud with a dynamic tornado, but just take a look at the photos, dynamic tornadoes can be just as destructive. 

Years ago I watched a video in which, the only way you knew a tornado was in progress, was to watch a bunch of debris being tossed above the city skyline. No funnel cloud in sight. Nor was it a “straight line” wind. Debris was floating and swirling about in the wind, and being lifted possibly hundreds of feet in the air. Here in the Inland Northwest, we may sometimes see funnel clouds. But more often than not, we get high winds with a torque. In short, the “swirling winds” that KHQ TV, etc. finally got around to acknowledging, was a thunderstorm generated dynamic tornado. This severe thunderstorm that generated a dynamic tornado, pounded eastern Washington, to Northern Idaho, and finally made quite a mess in Canada. A two state, two country weather system that left one hell of a damage track behind.

You can call me a “storm chaser” if you like. However, unlike the people who take lengthy trips into the midwest to catch a glimpse of, or take videos and photos some pretty nasty funnel clouds; I can be sitting at the Kootenai County Farmers Market downtown location and watch a monster storm move in. 23 July 2014, I am set up to do business on 5th Street and Lakeside Avenue in downtown Coeur d’Alene. I am waiting for the bell to ring so that we can start our business, I am kind of knitting on a scarf for the fair, and I am keeping a weather eye out for the building clouds over to the west. A supercell appeared in the clouds and I pointed it out to other people. The supercell disappeared after awhile, but the clouds were greenish (evidence of hail, lots of hail). The clouds got all ruffly looking (much like you would see in the movie “Twister”). Then they were curving kind of odd. Then the lightning bolts flashed red, fanning out from a central point. The wind buzzed even as the rain began to fall. A good thing for the easy ups being held down by weights, or they would have gone aloft. As it was, my own stuff for sale, was getting scattered across the ground in what was now a drenching downpour. I get it collected no matter what and restore it to my table. The wind seems to quiet a little, although the rain is still coming down pretty good. I go over to talk to a fellow vendor and a gust of wind pops my picnic umbrella up and sends it flying. You don’t get to do much business after that. We [the vendors] had probably been an hour on site before were breaking down to go home. When I got back to mine, I was looking at quite a mess.

The night of 23 July 2014, I checked in with Facebook and either saw news footage of the aftermath of this storm, or personal photos and videos from people who saw how much this storm had wrecked theirs or their neighbors’ property. Riverside Mobile Home Park, many parts of Spokane, Washington, some guy’s private hanger filled with planes, Silverwood R.V. Park… In the next two days, as I discussed our latest tornado phenomenon with my neighbors: one elderly lady expressed that there was no warning before the dynamic tornado hit Oak Crest. She acknowledged swirling winds. Neighbors living behind my own mobile home, were trying to rescue their personal property in a few frantic moments 1. Their gazebo about to fall over, 2. The wind was trying to pull an A.C. unit out of the window. So, on top of everything else, this tornado had quite a bit of suction to it as well. It also apparently angled, and sheared a bunch of limbs off another tree, behind another mobile home at the “corner” of Marlborough Avenue. Meanwhile, barely clipping branches and leaves off of trees on the other side of the road. I hadn’t gotten home yet, when the tornado blasted through Oak Crest. For anyone who might be my readers from the midwest, how familiar does this sound to you? One neighbor didn’t think it could be a tornado, because he saw no funnel cloud. Yet he did describe lightning damaged trees and others being uprooted in a “furious gust of wind.” This at the Golf Course where he has a job. The Golf Course is approximately two miles south of Oak Crest and possibly a mile west of the Park. He didn’t see a funnel cloud. That doesn’t mean anything. A dynamic tornado doesn’t have to produce a funnel cloud to still cause a tremendous amount of damage.


2 Responses to “Recognizing tornadoes”

  1. Christian Louboutin Pumps Says:

    Hello, just wanted to mention, I loved this blog post.
    It was funny. Keep on posting!

    • jeh15 Says:

      I wouldn’t exactly say that an F1 category tornado that tore through Eastern Washington and into Northern Idaho was “funny” to the people who witnessed it, survived it, and now have to deal with the damage to it. The next time you are in the Inland Northwest, notice a severe thunderstorm alert, and discover that winds are now rotating; don’t stand under any funnel clouds you happen to see.

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