RICHLAND, WA - A small tornado touched down on Rattlesnake Mountain on Wednesday night. People saw the twister from the Tri-Cities and as far away as Granger and Sunnyside.
Tornadoes are very rare in our region. Benton County has not seen a tornado since 2004. The National Weather Service in Pendleton said they only have 25 recorded in a large part of Oregon and Washington since 1950. Two are on record in Franklin County in 1978 and 1983. Benton County's oldest and only other recorded was back in 1956. Yakima County has seen the most, however, with eight recorded since the '50s with two even happening the same day in April of 2005.
The one on Rattlesnake Mountain was weak, an EF0, and the Weather Service estimates it was probably no more than 100 yards wide with up to 90 mile-per-hour winds.
"Fortunately, it did not hit any structures. If it did, it probably would have caused some light damage," said meteorologist Mike Vescio.
Vescio explained the tornado developed from a strong storm over Benton County. It takes a certain set of circumstances for a funnel to form. Conditions were just right with the high winds and height of the mountain allowing the storm to take on rotation and turn into a twister.
The last tornado of any significance in our region happened in 2009 near Pendleton. The tornado did hit some building and caused some minor damage.