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The 2020 Anchorage, Alaska tornado was an extraordinarily rare and powerful wedge tornado that devastated portions of Anchorage, Alaska during the late afternoon hours of March 19, 2020. The EF3 tornado killed 3 people and injured 136 others as it carved a massive path of destruction, starting at the southwest end of Anchorage and ending northeast of the city. It was the first tornado to strike the state of Alaska since an F0 on July 25, 2005, and is only one of 5 to have ever struck the state. It was also the most powerful tornado ever recorded in the state, and is one of the deadliest tornadoes to have ever occurred in the western half of the United States.

Meteorological Standpoint

The Anchorage tornado was highly unusual in the fact that it occured in the statistically least likely state to experience a tornado in the United States. Alaska almost never experiences tornadoes, with only 4 having been confirmed in the state since 1959. All were rated F0, the lowest category on the fujita scale.

Conditions were unusually favorable that day across southern Alaska. The very northern portion of an extratropical cyclone passing south of the state was expected to bring showers across the region, with some isolated thunderstorms possible. While isolated thunderstorms were mentioned, the National Weather Service office in Anchorage, Alaska never mentioned the possibility of some of them becoming severe.

Tornado summary

The supercell that would eventually spawn the deadly tornado spun up near the town of Nikiski at 4:24 pm. It took a generally northeast path as it crossed over an unpopulated part of the Kenai Peninsula Borough. While it was crossing over this area, the storm began to rotate. It was at this point that the National Weather Service office in Anchorage issued a Severe Thunderstorm Warning for the city.

The storm exited the Kenai Peninsula Borough and rotation became stronger while it was over water. A hook echo began to take shape on radar as well. A tornado warning was then issued for the city as the storm continued northeast. At 4:37 p.m., several citizens of Anchorage reported a tornado touching down south of Fire Island, and thus, a TORR (tornado reported) was issued for the city as it continued towards it. The tornado began to widen as it barreled closer to the city over water, and just offshore of Anchorage, and a PDS (particularly dangerous situation) TORR was issued. The tornado reached half a mile wide as it made landfall at the Jodhpur Motocross Track.

The tornado began producing damage at it's landfall in southern Anchorage. At the Jodhpur Motocross Track, several small metal buildings were leveled, some were swept clean off their foundations. Trees were debarked, and a trailer was found mangled and wrapped around a debarked tree. The tornado moved northeast into the city, where it began producing devastating damage. At Sand Lake, numerous homes suffered severe damage, including complete roof removal and exterior wall collapse. 2 homes at Sand Lake were leveled, though these homes were poorly anchored and context was not indicative of a violent tornado.

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