October 23, 2014

Longview Tornado Ravages Dumpster

An EF-1 (86-110 mph) tornado hit Longview, Washington around 12:50 PM today (Thursday) in the unstable air that followed the recent atmospheric river.

This tornado did some minor damage to buildings and power lines but seemed to take particular vengeance on dumpsters.    Amazingly, the tornado pushed one dumpster all the way down the street.  I don't think I have ever seen a dumpster pushed down a street any further by a tornado...and I am interested in that kind of thing.    Here is the proof.

You can see the small, but intense, convective cell associated with this fearful weather phenomenon (I indicated the echo with a yellow highlight).  A far stronger line had just passed through Portland.

According to the National Weather Service, the tornado was on the ground for 1.3 miles and left a damage swath 200 ft wide.

It is a well known in the meteorological community that tornadoes are attracted to mobile homes and dumpsters.  (see pictures)   We are not sure why this is true, but there is ongoing research.

Recently, someone made a dumpster into a mobile home  (see picture).  I can imagine the attraction this will have for tornadoes.

Finally, with the recent Anderson Island waterspout, I am getting many inquiries over whether the recent rash of tornadoes/waterspouts are caused or "consistent with" global warning.  You can imagine the answer.


  1. The answer to the global warming question is, "No." More broadly, weather doesn't equal climate. There's no consistent evidence that these transient weather features are caused by or connected to long-term climate change caused by human activity. Have I got that about right? :-)

    Cliff, thanks for ordering up the sun breaks this afternoon so we could see the eclipse. Everyone in my office gathered around the south-facing windows and took turns with my extremely high-tech pinhole viewing equipment (two pieces of white cardstock). It was excellent, not at all unlike second graders with their noses to the window to see the first snowflakes of the year. Downright festive.

    How's the Saturday storm shaping up? We are still planning on attending the Sounders game at Century Field at noon. Would be thrilled if it wasn't a complete windy downpour of a day, but if it's going to be, I'd like to be prepared.

    I'll be listening tomorrow morning on KPLU. I suspect you're saving the Saturday forecast for that program, and I can't say I blame you, but there's a lot to talk about after the somewhat exciting week we've had.

    BTW, you could tell that the Longview tornado footage was shot in Washington state and not Oklahoma or North Carolina because she said "oh my goodness" a few times. That's NOT what someone there would say. Also, a resident of those places would be a bit more tornado-savvy and would not go outside 10 seconds after a tornado had passed (idiot!)

  2. We get some awesome windstorms on occasion; but otherwise our "severe" weather seems pretty wimpy.

  3. I'm quite sure your reference to mobile homes is meant to be a pun. Most of us in the NW don't live in mobile homes, instead live in houses for the most part built to the Universal Building Code. While mobile homes are built under no federal or state codes, with the only requirement by local counties, being a foundation with minimal tie downs, electrical, plumbing and sewer or septic tank inspections.

    The perception that mobile homes are struck disproportionately is due to the fact that media is attracted to photos of serious damage and/or serious injuries. Both are more common with mobile homes in tornadoes, especially if they are not tied down. So, people see reporters doing "standups" in front of mobile homes and it creates a perception that mobile homes are struck more often.

    It is important, however, to consider where most mobile homes are located geographically and how susceptible that landscape is to severe weather. According to U.S. Census Bureau, many states in the infamous "Tornado Alley," the area in the central and southwest United States struck most by tornadoes, have high percentages of mobile homes. These areas are frequented by severe weather such as tornadoes, so we often hear of the excessive damage caused to mobile homes.

    While this may make it seem as though tornadoes are attracted to this type of structure, the truth is they are no more likely to be hit than a site-built home in the same location. The difference is their vulnerability. Mobile homes are less stable structurally and are more likely to be destroyed when hit. Because the structures are built at a factory out of smaller dimensional lumber & lightweight material which is stapled or air nailed with minimal requirements and transported to their locations, they are usually lighter in weight than site-built homes and don't have anchor bolts every four feet as required by the UBC for traditionally framed homes, therefore mobile homes are less secure. If a mobile home is not tied down, it can tip with winds as low as 50-60 miles per hour.

    Thank God we have proportionally less mobile homes in the NW, then in tornado alley. Not to mention the eyesore of such structures. AFAIC mobile homes should be outlawed. For those looking for a less expensive way to build and get into their first home, please check with your local county Self-help Building program financed by FHA and overseen by the federal Housing Authority Office. Other options would be having a home built with Habitat for Humanity support.


  4. You Folks in WA. need to move to the midwest where it is safer !

  5. You are right and wrong about mobile homes, Boomer. I lived in the south for many years (NC and GA). There are more trailers than here, but not as many as you would guess except in really poor communities. And stick-built homes can and do explode just like trailers, but as you say, it's not as good-looking on TV.

    There's a difference, though, between "trailers" like the one Cliff includes in a photo to illustrate tornado damage and manufactured homes, which are put on proper foundations, secured just like site-built homes, and often have site-built rooms, roofs, and garages. There are thousands of these manufactured homes in Washington state and unless you saw them being delivered, you wouldn't know that they were not site-built from looking at them inside or out. My father-in-law and his wife just bought one in a senior community in Yakima, and the construction quality is impressive (he is in the building trades and wouldn't live in a "trailer").

    While I lived in the Atlanta area, I worked on many Habitat for Humanity sites, including sites where I worked with Jimmy Carter a number of days (that's a real pleasure, he is so kind). There's no way HfH could build enough housing stock to get everyone in trailers or modulars into stick-built. Looking at the economics of the situation, it's not really a solution.

    I don't have any skin in this game. I live in a 1954 site-built home that is inferior to my FIL's brand-new manufactured home in many ways. But I get tired to the whole "trailers are evil" thing which is often just a way to make fun of poor people, or as people used to say in Georgia, "trailer trash".

    Modular homes vs. manufactured homes has got some eye-opening mythbusting info that you might want to check out.

  6. I do not myself see why this is so hard to fathom.

    Tornadoes, being the living and certainly "breathing" organisms they are, are mandated to search for monoliths of the proper dimensions. That is their prime directive. Not having as large "eyes" as do hurricanes in the same sense, they must pick up, 'touch', and discard objects in their eternal struggle to find something of the 1 x 4 x 9 dimensions that are prerequisite for proper monoliths across the universe. At least those relative dimensions have been found to be universally the perfect form.

    Anything of a cubic form, and particular those with a metallic shell, are particulary "attractive". Mobile homes and dumpsters are high on the potential list. So finding those articles being moved, picked up, and later destroyed (perhaps out of anger or disgust) is certainly an emotional process we humans can relate to as "frustrations" grow. Rotating objects - as is often done - is necessary to take proper measurements.

    The studies that Mr. Mass alludes are truly a waste of taxpayer funds in an effort to find alternative rationale (dare I use the term "Global Warming"?) for the presence of these random, but powerful forces. I for one say "the simplest explanation is often the best".

  7. Question for Cliff. Yesterday we had a beautiful rainbow in Seattle, followed by a nice thunderstorm. That got me to thinking...can rainbows be created from the light emitted by lightning? Not sure if you simply need a point source of light and many droplets or if lightning can have a similar effect. Maybe the strip lighting effect of lightning would eliminate/cancel out any such light refraction. Not sure it could even be detected unless using high frame rate HD video.


Please make sure your comments are civil. Name calling and personal attacks are not appropriate.

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