After surveying damage and talking to witnesses, the National Weather Service has confirmed a small tornado struck Gig Harbor over the weekend.
“There was doubt, but then we did the survey,” meteorologist Josh Smith said Tuesday. “There is no doubt that it was a tornado.”
The Weather Service classified the Sunday afternoon tornado as an EF1 on a scale that ranges from zero to five. Winds likely reached between 86 and 110 miles per hour.
It touched down just before 2:20 p.m. and took roughly 10 minutes to bisect the peninsula, according to the Weather Service.
It traveled four miles starting near Ray Nash Drive Northwest not far from Raft Island. Heading northeast to the waterfront, it crossed state Route 16 between Haven of Rest Funeral Home and Rosedale Street Northwest. It reached the waterfront near Donkey Creek, crossed the water as a water spout and ended near Crescent Valley Drive Northwest.
“It was an extraordinary experience,” said Carol Green, volunteer membership coordinator at Harbor History Museum, on the north end of downtown. She was at the museum’s front desk Sunday.
“First we heard the absolute roar that went over the building,” she said. “It just rolled in through the parking lot and ...whipped off a whole bunch of trees across the way.”
As it passed over, it sent a heavy floor mat flying, moved a metal trash can and ripped shingles from the roof, Green said.
The tornado broke three Peninsula Light Company power poles near Rosedale Street and 78th Avenue Northwest, company spokesman Jonathan White said.
“For the next week or so, the crews will be out doing permanent repairs to everything,” he said.
Gig Harbor Public Works director Jeff Langhelm was surprised at how few calls he received.
“I didn’t hear of any damage other than just branches and a few minor things impeding roadway travel,” he said.
A city-owned trailer was damaged by a falling tree, along with a fence. A tree also fell on a large tank at the city’s waste water treatment facility near Donkey Creek. A backup tank is being used while the city repairs the damage.
“It’s a good thing that no one got injured from this,” Smith said. “And it’s a good warning that tornadoes do happen in our area.”