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Freak twister strikes Kenai

Alaska, USA
FREAK twister strikes Kenai. Either an incredibly small tornado or an exceptionally strong dust devil struck the parking lot outside of Katina's Greek and Italian Restaurant in Kenai Monday. Witnesses say the twister touched down behind The Salvation Army thrift store adjacent to the restaurant, punched holes in two signs, sent debris across the Kenai Spur Highway and dissipated before it crossed the road. "It was one of the most scary things I've witnessed...The tornado was probably about the size of my living room. It was huge. It was 20 feet tall or a little bit taller." The twister struck about 1 pm, stirring up rocks and debris. Letters from the Summit Cleaners sign were swept away and carried across the street, landing in the trees next to the United Pentecostal Church across the street. "Above the tree line you could see the sign floating down." Everything was calm just before the tornado struck. The incident lasted between 15 and 20 seconds, and afterwards it rained for about a minute. "It looked like a little tornado. It wasn't windy out or anything, it was beautiful." The twister spun a couple of times, it rained a lot and then it disappeared. "It just happened right here in this parking lot." When it was over everything was still floating in the air. It was awesome. I don't know where it came from or why, but it came from around the corner." Even though eyewitnesses say it was a tornado, the National Weather Service said there are no weather patterns going through the area that are consistent with a tornado. Cumulonimbus clouds, or thunderheads, typically spawn tornadoes, and there haven't been any thunder clouds in the area. "I don't think it was a tornado. There may have been a really strong wind gust that may have stirred up a dust devil. The dust devil is a by-product of strong winds and strong wind directional changes." The dust devil itself may not have been responsible for the damage to the signs, it may have been the strong wind gusts. As of 4 p.m. Monday the weather was mostly cloudy at the Kenai and Soldotna airports. They have been reporting occasional gusts at times, but they weren't sure if they were strong enough to create such damage. "There may have been some localized gusty winds in the area." Despite the damage to the signs, Katina's didn't notify the Kenai Fire or the Police departments. And even though the flight path for aircraft bound for the Kenai Municipal Airport is right above Katina's, the airport manager said she hadn't heard of strange weather either.

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