By TED TAYLOR
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
Saturday’s violent thunderstorms in Central Oregon did not produce a tornado, but the wind speeds and damage left behind certainly equated to one, according to the National Weather Service.
The Pendleton office of the NWS on Monday issued a “preliminary” statement saying wind speeds ranged from 60 mph to 100 mph as the storm cut a path of destruction through Culver and Metolius areas of Jefferson County. An EF-1 tornado typically sees wind speeds between 86 and 109 mph, the NWS said.
The agency said the bulk of the damage was blown either from south to north or from southwest to northwest, “this indicates the prevalence of a divergent straight-line wind pattern rather than the circular convergent pattern associated with a tornado.”
“Even though no tornado could be confirmed, such intense straight-line winds are equally capable of significant life-threatening damage,” the statement said.
The damage was part of two severe thunderstorms that rolled through Central Oregon on Saturday afternoon, starting in south Deschutes County near La Pine around 1 p.m. moving northeast through Bend, Redmond, and into Jefferson County.
Golf-ball sized hail fell in some areas as heavy rains and strong winds battered the entire region. But most of the heaviest damage happened near Prineville and Culver.
The winds uprooted trees and downed power lines, cutting electricity to some 10,000 customers in Jefferson County and beyond.
On Sunday, Deschutes Valley Water District and the cities of Madras, Culver, and Metolius asked all customers to stop all outdoor watering for the next 24-48 hours.
Power to the hydro facility at Opal Springs was down and expected to be restored Monday.
“Power is necessary to pump the water from the canyon to the various water tanks throughout the district,” according to Marc Heckathorn, Undersheriff Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. “The district is currently serving the communities with water held in the holding tanks.
Pacific Power posted on its Facebook page Monday “crews continue to make steady progress to restore power to the remaining 1,283 customers impacted. We estimate power will be restored to all customers by the end of the day today.”
Central Oregon Daily’s Brooke Snavely is in Jefferson County today to talk to residents about the storm and get an update from officials on the damage.
— NWS Pendleton (@NWSPendleton) June 1, 2020