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Tornado strikes Longview homes, businesses

No injuries reported from unusual cloud formation

Photo Credit: FACEBOOK PHOTO COURTESY OF NINA PHILLIPS - A photograph posted to Facebook by a Kelso, Wash., resident, appears to show the remains of street trees after a tornado hit the Longview, Wash., area on Thursday, Oct. 23.A tornado touched down near Longview, Wash., between 12:40 p.m. and 12:50 p.m. Thursday afternoon, Oct. 23, the National Weather Service said.

The Cowlitz County Department of Emergency Management reported seeing a funnel cloud near the Hall of Justice in Kelso, Wash. “Take cover now!” the Department of Emergency Management warned on Twitter.

KOIN 6 Chief Meteorologist Kristen Van Dyke later confirmed that a tornado touched down in the area.

Roughly ten minutes after their initial tweet, Cowlitz County Emergency Management said the funnel cloud seemed to have broken up north of Kelso.

People in Longview and Kelso took to social media, reporting downed trees and power lines, flying metal, and damage to buildings.

An employee at Silver Sports Bar & Grill in Longview reported seeing debris in the air, but that the restaurant was spared. However, the employee said it appeared Carl’s Towing Service & Repair Inc. was hit the worst.

Jerry Cole, mayor of nearby Rainier, posted video to Facebook showing his view of the funnel cloud from across the Columbia River.

The National Weather Service rated it as an EF-1 tornado, with wind speeds estimated between 86 mph and 110 mph. It said the path of the tornado was about 1.3 miles long and 200 feet wide.

It also reported "significant roof damage to industrial buildings" and "minor roof damage to residential homes," as well as downed power poles, 25 to 30 destroyed trees and damage to cars.

National Weather Service spokesperson Colby Newman said a team was evaluating the scene in the Longview area Thursday afternoon.

Photo Credit: FACEBOOK PHOTO COURTESY OF NINA PHILLIPS - A Kelso, Wash., resident said she snapped this picture of debris being tossed through the air Thursday afternoon, Oct. 23. The National Weather Service confirmed that a tornado touched down briefly in the area.Cowlitz County Emergency Management advised staying away from Vandercook Way near 10th Avenue due to debris, which crews were reportedly in the process of cleaning up.

Longview Police & Fire asked the public to avoid Vandercook Way from 12th Avenue to 7th Avenue due to damaged property and downed power lines.

No injuries were reported. Emergency Management advised local residents to stay away from windows and phones as a precaution.

Several power lines were reported down at 7th Avenue and Washington Way, and at other locations between Longview and Kelso.

At least one building, that of Al's Auto Center in downtown Longview, was condemned by the city after suffering severe tornado damage. Al Wills, the business' owner, told KOIN 6 News he was thrown to the ground by the brief but intense windstorm as it hit the building.

KOIN 6 News also spoke to other witnesses at local businesses who reported the tornado ripped off building roofs, shattered windows, tore off doors and tossed objects — including a trampoline — through the air.

Jalen West, a 17-year-old student at Kelso High School, said a school police officer ran into the gym and told students to move to the locker room.

Spotlight reporter Mark Miller contributed to this report. This story has been updated.