At least one person was injured after a rare tornado hit a city just southeast of Los Angeles Wednesday, local officials said.
The National Weather Service confirmed the tornado “briefly touched down” in an industrial park and warehouse district in the city of Montebello and rated the tornado an EF-1 with estimated peak winds of 110 mph – the strongest tornado to hit the Los Angeles area since 1983.
The “intense microcell” damaged at least 17 buildings, 11 so severely the fire department deemed them too dangerous to use, according to Michael Chee, a city public information officer.
“There was flying debris and everything!!!!” tweeted one person who shared a video of the storm. The video zooms in on a mass of dark gray clouds consuming the sky and tapering down toward land.
The reported injury is considered minor, Chee said at a news conference.
The tornado collapsed one building’s roof, snapped a power pole, ejected an HVAC unit from the top of a building, broke skylights, damaged cars and uprooted a healthy pine tree with a 1-foot wide trunk, the weather service reported after assessing the storm damage in Montebello Wednesday.
Tornadoes are rare in California, with fewer than 10 per year on average, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Most tornadoes in the state are small and short lived.
They are commonly referred to as landspouts (similar to a waterspout, but over land). These differ from more traditional tornadoes that form from rotating thunderstorms, like those common in the Central Plains and the Southeast. While landspouts can cause damage, it is generally not extensive or severe.
On Tuesday evening, a weak tornado hit a mobile home park in Carpinteria – a seaside city northwest of Los Angeles, the weather service confirmed Wednesday. The service rated it as an EF-0, with winds of 75 mph.
The tornado damaged 25 mobile home units in the Sandpiper Village mobile home park and caused minor tree damage to an adjacent cemetery.
Additional video of the Montebello storm shows a swirling cloud of black debris as the roof of a nearby building gets blown off. Vehicles can be seen with damage and shattered windows.
“The roof came off this building,” a witness says as he records a parking lot full of damaged vehicles.
“This is stuff you see in Ohio, Arkansas… Not Montebello,” another witness is heard saying.
Wednesday’s intense weather comes as California has been plagued in recent months by at least 12 atmospheric rivers that have brought devastating flooding and hurricane-force winds. An atmospheric river is like a fire hose that carries saturated air from the tropics to higher latitudes, dumping relentless rain or snow.
At least five people died due to the storm in the San Francisco Bay Area as fierce winds lashed cities on Tuesday, toppling trees and power lines. The city of San Francisco said its 911 call center had four times its normal call volume during the peak of the storm, which resulted in over 700 fallen trees and limbs and reports of glass and debris falling from high rise towers.