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Waterspout triggers rare tornado warning in Pierce County

TACOMA, Wash. -- A waterspout was sighted near Anderson Island Saturday afternoon, triggering a rare Tornado Warning to be issued in the Puget Sound region.

A trained weather spotter reported the waterspout touching down in the waters west of Anderson Island at 12:10 p.m.

A second spotter reported seeing the waterspout, which is simply a tornado over water, and that it lasted for about two minutes before dissipating.

Both reports triggered the Tornado Warning, which also covered the Lakewood and DuPont areas but expired a few minutes later at 12:30 p.m.

Pierce County officials confirmed that the waterspout never reached land and there are no reports of any injuries or damage.

According to the National Weather Service office in Seattle, it's the first Tornado Warning issued for the greater Seattle Metro area since Dec. 12, 1969 -- nearly 45 years! That warning was for this storm -- an F3 tornado in Kent.

For all of Western Washington, according Sean Breslin with Weather.com, it's the first Tornado Warning issued anywhere covered by the Seattle office of the National Weather Service in 6,249 days - over 17 years! That was for a brief radar-indicated tornado in rural Snohomish County near the Cascades.

There have been a number of tornadoes to touch down in Western Washington over the years, but most are weak and have struck without warning. Unlike the Midwest where tornadoes can last on the ground for several minutes, tornadoes here are typically so brief they're gone before any warning can be effective. The state averages about 2 tornadoes per year.

Weak or not, it was quite the imposing sight for Justin Hayes, who spotted the waterspout from 130 feet up atop a cell tower in DuPont.

"The sky turned black, it was pretty interesting," he said. "It was the darkest I've ever seen clouds."

Hayes was working at the top of the tower when he noticed the distant clouds getting darker...then he heard thunder.

"As soon as we heard the thunder that was our 'OK, time to get down' so we grabbed everything we could, lowered down our tools," he said.

KOMO News viewer Bill Samaras, who lives on the south Puget Sound at Nisqually Reach, shot photos of the waterspout as it moved between his home and Anderson Island. Here is his description of the experience:

"At about 12 p.m., we heard thunder. Looking out at the Sound, I noticed an area of disturbance on the water surface about half way from us to Anderson Island. It appeared much like a medium-sized dust devil extending maybe 50 feet into the air. Above, the sky was dark, but no funnel cloud was apparent. There appeared to be heavy precipitation to the north of this disturbance.

"I announced to my family a small tornado was forming and they all casually glanced as it passed behind an obstruction. The spout was gone, but an area of agitated water surface continued to move toward the east. Grabbed binoculars and the surface was definitely wind swept, but no funnel phenomena.

"I was convinced the event was over, but a minute later, a full sky to water funnel was present. Grabbed my 'real' Nikon camera and got a few shots representing the maximum maturity of the funnel and the dissipation that occurred before landfall."

Watch the video submitted by KOMO News viewer Antonio Flores at Joint Base Lewis-McChord:



Here is another video of the waterspout from Facebook (Editor's note: There is a little explicit language in the video):

(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/all.js#xfbml=1"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));Post by Daniel Hull.

Here's a third video submitted by Justin Hayes (taken by someone who was working on a cell tower at the time):

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