May 7, 2009 in City

Wind tears through north Spokane property

By The Spokesman-Review
Dan Pelle photo

Randy White waves his arms, May 7, 2009, as he explains to nsurance broker Jeff O’Neill, the extend of the damage to his garage and cars afer high winds tore through the area of Monroe and Wild Rose on Wednesday evening. White believes a flying tree from his yard broke his van’s rear window. DAN PELLE The Spokesman-Review
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Severe Weather Awareness Week
This week is Severe Weather Awareness Week for the National Weather Service. Here is what the weather service says about high winds associated with thunderstorms:

“Downburst winds from a thunderstorm usually result when evaporation of raindrops cools air within a storm. This pocket of cooled air, heavier than the surrounding air, accelerates downward to the ground. As the cool air impacts the ground, it spreads out from the area of impact causing strong winds.

Winds generated from this process can exceed 100 mph. Weather forecasters call these bursts of wind ‘microbursts’ if they are less than 2 1/2 miles across and ‘macrobursts’ if they are greater than 2 1/2 miles across. These downbursts of air can be detrimental to aircraft and can cause extensive damage, injuries and fatalities.

Staying indoors when thunderstorms are present is good protocol.”

Lynn White and her family hunkered down in their Wild Rose Prairie home north of Spokane on Wednesday night while winds from a thunderstorm enveloped their property.

“It was kind of an eerie howling sound,” she said today.

Several minutes after the 9 p.m. storm passed, they went outside and discovered that winds uprooted several landscape trees, shove\ed an equipment trailer 25 feet into a Toyota Camry and ripped open the roof of a 40-by-60-foot shop and garage with a 16-foot bay door. Trusses for the shop roof were snapped, she said.

“The metal blew past the end of our property,” White said. “It was a lot of debris flying around.”

The home about 25 feet from the shop was not damaged, although scaffolding placed along the house for home improvement work was scattered by the wind, she said.

“I was very thankful we were all OK,” she said of the storm that passed through the Deer Park area.

The damage was confined to a relatively small portion of their property at 25024 N. Monroe Rd.

Another home about a mile to the west was damaged, and trees near U.S. Highway 395 and South Dragoon Drive were toppled about five miles to the east.

A weather service meteorologist was headed to the house to survey the scene, and an insurance adjuster had visited the Whites earlier in the day.

Earlier on Wednesday, funnel clouds had been spotted earlier in the evening in Lincoln County from a line of heavy storms moving from southwest to northeast toward the Whites’ home. The heaviest weather passed to the north of the Spokane urban area, according to the National Weather Service.

Although the damage was severe, weather service meteorologists said they did not initially believe that a tornado had touched down at the Whites’ home.

Jeremy Wolf, a forecaster at the weather service, said the damage most likely came from a strong outflow of cold air descending from the vertical thunderstorms. The outflow winds then rushed along the ground in a single direction. Those type of winds are often referred to as “straight line winds” to distinguish them from the rotation of a tornado. Straight-line winds occur frequently from thunderstorms in Eastern Washington.

Wolf said that radar images during the storm did not show the kind of rotation that can be expected during a tornado. However, rotation was evident earlier in the evening when the funnel clouds were spotted over Lincoln County.

Wolf said there was a chance that a tornado touched down briefly at the Whites’ home and that any expected cloud rotation was missed by radar images that are compiled automatically every five minutes.

Coincidentally, this week is Severe Weather Awareness Week for the Weather Service, which has been warning the public about the dangers of thunderstorms, lightning, wind, hail, tornadoes, floods and wintry conditions through the week.

Washington averages one to two tornadoes each year.

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