Doppler radar spots toranado over Cove

By By Bill Rautenstrauch The Observer July 20, 2012 01:17 pm

Though on-scene sightings are lacking, the National Weather Service in Pendleton said that radar spotted formation of a tornado near Cove during Wednesday evening’s thunderstorms.

Shortly after 6:30 p.m., the weather service issued a tornado warning for central Union County and west-central Wallowa County, based on Doppler radar data.

Tornado warnings are issued when strong rotation is detected in a storm. A tornado may already be on the ground or is expected to develop shortly.

The local warning was issued after radar showed strong rotation in the storm  near Cove, 13 miles east of La Grande. But the weather service said Friday it had received no information about actual sightings of a tornado.

“The radar detected the rotation, and we’re trying to follow up and confirm if anybody saw the funnel,” said Mary Wister, a meteorologist in Pendleton.

Union County Sheriff Boyd Rasmussen said Thursday his department had received no reports of tornado activity or damage. No reports of sightings were recorded on public safety reports for Wednesday.

Wister did say that Tesmund Hurd, a weather spotter in La Grande, saw a wall cloud about 4:30 p.m. Wednesday and took a picture. 

She said that a couple of hours later during another storm event, an Enterprise spotter also photographed a wall cloud.

A wall cloud, sometimes called a pedestal cloud, forms at the base of a cumulonimbus cloud that may be forming a tornado. It indicates the area of strongest updraft in a storm.

Tornados are rare in Oregon but do occur. A Website at records one tornado in Union County, on June 21,1983.

The Website said tornados occurred in Wallowa County June 11, 1968, June 23, 1969, and July 22, 1992. 

No injuries or deaths were reported in any of those storms, but the 1968 Wallowa County tornado was a whopper. 

According to National Weather Service reports, it destroyed 1800 acres of timber and badly damaged an additional 1,200. 

Lasting no more than five minutes, it was accompanied by golf ball-sized hail and blew down an estimated 40 million board feet of timber.

It had a ground path of about eight to 10 miles.