MCMINNVILLE -- It was indeed a tornado that damaged several buildings late Thursday afternoon in the community of McMinnville, the National Weather Service has confirmed.
Nobody was hurt, but three commercial buildings, all of them used for storage, were damaged, McMinnville Fire Chief Rich Leipfert said. The porch roof on one nearby home also sustained minor damage, Leipfert said.
The tornado's estimated top winds in the most damaged area ranged from 86 to 90 miles per hour, Weather Service meteorologist Treena Hartley said late Thursday night. That puts it in the EF1 storm category.
Elsewhere it was defined by the damage found as an EF0. That class of storm has winds from 65-85 mph, Hartley said.
"I was just across the way and I saw the whole roof roll up off of the building," Kelly McDonald, managing partner of a nearby development, told the Yamhill Valley News-Register. "I wish I'd had the presence of mind to take a picture. I was just trying to get everyone inside."
Sean Cahill got caught in a torrential hailstorm as he was driving. He didn't see any cloud, he said, but he did see building debris flying in circles about 100 feet in the air.
"It looked like a confused flock of birds," Cahill said.
Radar showed a concentrated weather pattern around 4:30 p.m. near McMinnville that could indicate a funnel cloud. KGW Meteorologist Matt Zaffino said the system had dissipated by 4:36 p.m.
No one was injured during the severe weather.
KGW viewers called to report a loud "boom," wind damage, and street closures. Photos showed a metal roof torn off and other wind damage. [Share your pics: email@example.com]
The damage was concentrated in an area around 11th Ave and NE Lafayette in McMinnville.
Rick Plummer and his wife were in their home at the McMinnville Manor mobile home park. Plummer described the scene to KGW via telephone: "Half a block away from us, big sections of the roof are laying alongside the road...stuff is hanging off the telephone lines."
A cold-air funnel cloud was also reportedly spotted in Hillsboro, Zaffino said. Funnel clouds reportedly were also seen Thursday afternoon in or near the communities of Albany and Harrisburg, Higa said.
Tornadoes in Oregon are rare. The last notable twister struck Aumsville, east of Salem, in December 2010, according to a list on the National Weather Service website. The storm caused more than $1 million in damage to 50 homes and four businesses, but nobody was injured.