A massive rainstorm was setting records Monday across the perennially soggy Pacific Northwest, accompanied by damaging winds and even an extremely rare tornado that damaged a Boeing plant and tipped over rail cars in Washington state.
No injuries were reported in the tornado, which touched down about 7:20 a.m. (10:20 a.m. ET) in Frederickson, about 40 miles south of Seattle, the National Weather Service confirmed. It tunneled between two buildings at a Boeing Co. plant, damaging several warehouses and factories, a company spokesman said.
The winds overturned several rail cars and flung a passenger car and into a wooden wall board, authorities and witnesses said.
"My first instinct — I thought it was an earthquake. Honestly, I never heard of weather like this, at least in Washington state," Kirk Ransden, who was inside a nearby business when the tornado hit, told NBC station KING of Seattle.
"We were in the building, and it sounded like a vacuum starting. It was really loud, kind of high pitched," Ransden said. "I saw a ripple through the ceiling, and then everything came through. Then water starting pouring."
Tornadoes are very rare in Washington, which averages fewer than two low-intensity twisters a year statewide. There have been only 16 on record since the 1950s in the Puget Sound region of Western Washington around Seattle and Tacoma.
Although meteorologists said it was an isolated incident, the tornado that struck Monday hit as heavy rain — unusual even for the famously wet northwest corner of the country — pushed many cities in Washington and Oregon past their records for September.
Thousands of customers were without power, and flash flooding was widespread. With Monday's rainfall yet to be tallied, Portland, Ore., was already at 6.2 inches, well above its previous record of 5.52 inches in September 1927. Meanwhile, Olympia, Wash., this month had recorded 8 inches of rain — more than four times its September average.
Other cities setting records included Astoria, Ore., at 10.25 inches; Eugene, Ore., at 5.67 inches; and Salem, Ore., at 6.25 inches.
Seattle — nationally famous for its rain thanks to "Sleepless in Seattle" and the TV show "Frazier" — entered Monday at 5.44 inches this month and added another quarter-inch by midday, according to the National weather Service. It was well on track to break its record of 5.95 inches, set in 1978.
In addition to the rain, sustained winds of 50 mph to 60 mph were reported throughout the region over the weekend, with 70- to 80-mph gusts along the coasts and in the mountains of both states.
The winds downed tree branches, power lines and traffic lights throughout downtown Portland on Saturday and Sunday. Across the two states, more than 12,000 customers were without power at midday Monday, including more than 7,000 in Orting, Wash., about 15 miles southeast of Tacoma.
The National Weather Service said the storm was partly fueled by the remnants of Typhoon Pabuk in the western Pacific, which met a cool Alaskan air mass off the Pacific Northwest coast, creating a weather pattern more characteristic of November.
"We basically had conditions well offshore that were very reminiscent of late fall, early winter," Dana Felton, an NWS meteorologist in Seattle, told KING.