Forest fires. Flooding. Heavy snow storms. These are the weather events that come to mind when thinking about Idaho.
But there is another meteorological phenomenon that sometimes goes undetected and happens a lot more than one might think — tornadoes.
Since 1954, there have been about 200 tornadoes reported in Idaho — or about three a year. Ten of them, or 5%, were EF2 tornadoes, meaning they had winds ranging from 111-135 mph. The most recent EF2 was in Adams County near Bear, Idaho on June 4th, 2006.
However, about 95% of those were EF0 (65-85mph) to EF1 (86-110mph) tornadoes.
“Thus the damage they cause is usually minimal so they don’t get a lot of attention,” National Weather Service Meteorologist David Groenert said.
Spinning through rural IdahoIn addition to being small in size, the majority of them are short-lived and spin up over land in rural parts of the state. For example, Bingham (20), Jefferson (16) and Power (15) counties have the most tornadoes on record.
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“Without pictures or videos, evidence of their occurrence can be hard to track down after the fact,” Groenert said. “It takes being in the right place at the right time to see one and get a picture/video, even for those that storm chase.”
Groenert also said that there is an ‘Idaho Tornado Alley’ of sorts that stretches from the Western Magic Valley (Hagerman area) into the upper Snake Plain (Idaho Falls area).
“There are favorable topographic features and wind flow that favor the development of thunderstorms capable of developing tornadoes.”
Boise tornadoAnd while the majority of Idaho’s tornadoes have been nothing to write home about, there have been several tornadoes that did spin up some attention and cause damage.
Since 1954, there have been 10 recorded tornadoes in Ada County. One of those, which happened in March of 1984, spun through west Boise — near the Intersection of Five Mile and Overland roads. The EF1 tornado took out street signs, traffic lights, and caused damage to businesses in the area.
“While the chance of seeing an Idaho tornado is small, a direct hit by any tornado can cause significant damage and injuries,” he said.