WENATCHEE — A flash storm that seemed to come out of nowhere Thursday afternoon blew down trees and powerlines, pulled back roofing, and left people in the Omak area wondering if they just experienced a tornado.
Those who were in the storm said they were enjoying sunny skies one minute, and in the middle of an intense storm moments later.
“It was blue and sunny and perfect, and then we saw this cloud and within 15 minutes it was just dumping rain,” said Joy Bishop, an East Wenatchee woman who was under a large tree with her sister and eight kids at the Slidewaters at Lake Chelan when a tree fell. No one was seriously injured, she said.
“It looked like a twister,” said Tim Engh, maintenance supervisor for the Omak School District, where one building had part of a roof torn off, and downed trees and branches were scattered across school campuses.
Wind gusts reached 62 mph just outside of Okanogan, said Jeffrey Cote, meteorologist for the National Weather Service. But from photos they received so far, the agency does not believe the storm was actually a tornado, he said.
“It came through so fast, and right behind it was blue sky. If you were taking a nap, you wouldn’t have known it happened,” said Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers.
The storm briefly closed Highway 97 due to downed power lines. Power was out in Omak and Okanogan for several hours, with most of it restored by 9:30 p.m.
Todd McDaniel, public works director for the city of Omak, said this morning that tree branches and some roofing material is littering the ground, but he hasn’t heard of any major damages.
No significant damage or flooding was reported in Chelan County. But there were reports of rocks on Highway 97A north of Entiat, and the playground at Rocky Reach Dam was closed because of fallen tree branches.
The National Weather Service reported that up to 0.35 inches of rain fell in 10 minutes over No. 1 Canyon and No. 2 Canyon west of Wenatchee. A similar amount of rain was recorded north of Entiat over areas burned by last summer’s Byrd Fire.
“It dumped a lot of rain, but it moved through really fast,” said Katherine Rowden, a hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Spokane.
Rowden said the agency received reports from volunteer weather spotters of rocks and water on Highway 97A between Entiat and Chelan. A RiverCom dispatcher said someone had reported rocks on the highway near Knapps Tunnel.
Rowden said they also heard that heavy runoff was lifting manhole covers in Cashmere.
Wind gusts of 35 mph to 40 mph were recorded in the Wenatchee area. The wind brought down tree limbs in the park at Rocky Reach Dam. A picnic shelter and the playground there are closed for cleanup until today, though the Visitor Center remained open, PUD officials said.
Jim Duck, coordinator for the Central Washington Interagency Communications Center, said only one lightning strike resulted in a wildfire so far. That is located about 10 miles west of Chelan, and a Forest Service crew is hiking into it this morning, he said.