How rare are tornadoes in Washington? A look at the state’s storm history

PORT ORCHARD, Wash. -- What happened Tuesday in Port Orchard was a rare event.

Extremely rare, according to historical data.

The National Weather Service confirmed a tornado that touched down in the city limits was a category EF-2.  An investigation shows it lasted about five minutes, and wind speeds ranged from 120-130 mph.

Q13 News compiled Washington tornado information for the last 50 or so years. Using information from the National Weather Service,  the Tornado History Project, Q13 News meteorologists and other sources, we learned just how infrequent a weather event like this happens in the state.

Washington Tornado History

First, Tuesday's tornado was the strongest in the state since 1986.

There have only been about a dozen EF-2s in the state dating back to 1954. Many occur in the south or east end of the state.

Washington averages about 2.5 tornadoes a year. However, they are extremely rare in December.

The only other EF-2 or greater storm to hit the Puget Sound in December was in 1969. That was an EF-3 that hit near Kent and Des Moines, Wash.

More than 100 tornadoes have hit the state since 1954, but most are small. The last tornado in our area was March 2017 in Monroe. The storm tipped over a few RV's, but was a category EF-0.

The state has had three EF-3 tornadoes, but not since 1972.

The only fatalities we could find from a tornado occurred on April 5, 1972. Six people were killed in a storm near Vancouver, and more than 300 were injured.

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