Lightning was captured May 4 over Reese Creek Ranch by Kayla Stone.

Post-storm reconnaissance flight finds little damage

Weather experts went looking for tornado damage in northeastern Jackson County and northwestern Klamath County this week but came up empty.

National Weather Service radar indicated conditions were ripe last week for a tornado in the area, prompting local meteorologists to issue a rare tornado warning.

To find out whether the storm actually touch down anyplace, two Medford meteorologists took a helicopter flight over the affected area Tuesday looking for signs.

They traveled to remote areas in northeastern Jackson County and northwestern Klamath County, spending about 1½ hours hundreds of feet above the ground looking for damage to the tops of trees. 

"We were looking for evidence of a touchdown, also any kind of blowdown of trees," says meteorologist Ryan Sandler, who took the flight. "Anything with newer trees where the tops were just snapped off."

They no evidence of a touchdown, and no signs that angry downward wind blasts from storm clouds — called downbursts — did much, either.

"From a meteorologist's perspective, it was a little disappointing," Sandler says.

Weather officials found some newly fallen trees, and others whose limbs had been stripped off by winds, but those examples were more isolated.

"Nothing really intense and widespread," Sandler says.

The warning was issued at 7:31 p.m. May 4 for Prospect and Union Creek, and a sliver of Klamath County near Crater Lake. Radar showed a strong rotation within the storm clouds. They're called mesocyclones, Sandler says, and it's a good indicator that a tornado could be arriving soon.

"But that doesn't tell us what's happening on the ground," he says. "It's where the tornado forms."

The agency received two reports of funnel clouds from Prospect residents, one near the Prospect airport, and one spotted east of a U.S. Forest Service ranger station.

"When you start getting funnel clouds that are legitimate, the chances go up," Sandler says.

But by 7:55 p.m., the tornado warning was lifted.

That's not to say the storm didn't leave its mark. In the midst of 441 recorded lighting strikes across the county, more than 9,000 people lost power for about 45 minutes. Weather officials reported hail stones as large as golf balls and hen's eggs, Sandler says.

— Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or Follow him at

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