Damage near INL shows power of Thursday’s tornado


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IDAHO FALLS — The National Weather Service in Pocatello is surveying the damage caused by a tornado that touched down near the Idaho National Lab on Thursday afternoon.

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In a news release, NWS reports heavy damage to large sections of a snow fence. Multiple steel beams were bent and twisted, they say.

“The horizontal part of these fences, made of vinyl and steel cable, were ripped apart and strewn for several yards,” according to the news release. “Large metal pieces used to hold these together were snapped and/or thrown several yards away from the fence.”

Other damage includes a sign snapped off at the ground, sagebrush that was ripped from the ground and rocks tossed from their original location.

No one was injured in the area.

The tornado touched down northeast of the INL and crossed U.S. 20 near the MFC facilities between 4 and 4:30 p.m.

Thursday’s tornado was an EF-1, which means its wind speed was between 86 and 110 mph. The Enhanced Fujita (EF) scale rates the intensity of a tornado based on the damage it causes, and provides an approximate number for wind speed.

Most tornados in east Idaho, and across the country, are measured at EF0 or EF1, NWS Pocatello Meteorologist John Keyes told EastIdahoNews.com. The scale goes up to EF5, where winds can reach in excess of 200 mph.

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At EF0 or EF1, damage is fairly minimal. Keyes said you may see some damaged trees, roofs, fences or other property, but neighborhoods aren’t going to be devastated by these small twisters.

The NWS is still investigating likely tornado tracks to the south and southwest of Atomic City and across the southern reaches of Craters of the Moon National Monument. At this time, no visual evidence of tornadoes has been found in these areas.

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Jefferson County Emergency Manager Rebecca Squires told us in April the most important thing to be safe during a tornado is to be aware of the watches and warnings that are being issued by the NWS.

There are a variety of ways to get weather warnings — from NWS, county alert systems and from local media. Users of the EastIdahoNews.com mobile app can automatically receive the alerts on their devices within seconds of them being issued.

If you do hear of a tornado or see one in your area, Squires said find shelter immediately.

People in homes should go to a storm cellar or basement. If you don’t have one of the those, go to the interior part of the home, preferably a room with no windows.