By JOHN ANTCZAK and CHRISTOPHER WEBER – Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A rare tornado touched down in a Los Angeles suburb Wednesday, ripping the roofs off a line of commercial buildings and sending debris skyward and across a city block, injuring one person.
The National Weather Service sent crews to assess the damage in Montebello and later confirmed that a tornado had touched down around 11:20 a.m.
“It’s definitely not a common thing in the region,” said meteorologist Rose Schoenfeld with the weather service.
One person was injured and taken to a hospital in Montebello, said Alex Gillman, a city spokesman. He did not know the severity of the injury.
Michael Turner could hear the increasing winds from inside his office in the 33,000-square-foot warehouse he owns just south of downtown Montebello. As the lights began to flicker, he stepped outside to find his employees gazing up at the ominous sky. He brought everyone inside.
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“He got very strong. Things were flying all over the place,” Turner said. “The whole factory turned into one big dump for a minute. Then when the dust settled, the place was a mess.”
No one was hurt, but the gas line was cut, the fire sprinklers were broken, all the skylights were shattered and a 5,000-square-foot (465-square-meter) section of roof “just disappeared,” Turner said. He said his polyester fiber business, Turner Fiberfill, could be closed for months.
“I’ve been in California since 1965. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Turner said. “Earthquakes, we are used to that.”
Debris spread over more than a city block. Inspectors checked 17 buildings in the area and 11 of them were labeled uninhabitable, according to the fire department. Several cars were also damaged.
The freaky and violent weather came amid a strong late-season Pacific storm that brought damaging winds and more rain and snow to congested California. Two people were killed Tuesday as the storm battered the San Francisco Bay Area with powerful gusts and downpours. An on-duty San Francisco police sergeant was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries after a tree fell on him Tuesday, the department said.
The weather service also sent assessment teams to the city of Carpinteria, Santa Barbara County, where it confirmed that a tornado struck a mobile home park Tuesday, with gusts of up to 75 miles (120 kilometers) per hour damaging about 25 residences. .
The last time the Los Angeles weather service office sent out tornado assessment teams was in 2016 near Fillmore in Ventura County, where a small tornado was determined to have touched down, Schoenfeld said.
A radar-based tornado warning was also issued Tuesday night for the Point Mugu area west of Malibu. The warning was later canceled and the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office tweeted that there was no evidence a tornado had touched down.
The storm was tapering off California from north to south as it moved inland through the Southwest, the Four Corners region and the central and southern Rocky Mountains, the National Weather Service said. On Tuesday, some north-central Arizona residents were told to prepare to evacuate due to rising water levels in rivers and basins.
The wind and rain chaos from southern San Francisco Bay to Monterey Bay on Tuesday was caused by an extraordinary drop in barometric pressure over the eastern Pacific that forecasters described as “explosive cyclogenesis.”
“Wow. Even by the standards of what turned out to be one of our most extraordinary winter seasons in a long time, yesterday…stands out,” the Bay Area weather bureau wrote.
Trees and power lines were downed. The windows of two San Francisco skyscrapers were blown out, NBC Bay Area reported. The ferry service was interrupted because the conditions were too harsh. Three barges broke loose and damaged a bridge.
An Amtrak commuter train carrying 55 passengers collided with a fallen tree and derailed near the East Bay town of Porta Costa. The train remained upright and no one was injured, Amtrak and fire officials said.
Five deaths were attributed to the storm. In the Bay Area community of Portola Valley, a man driving a sewer truck was killed when a tree fell on the vehicle, the California Highway Patrol said. And in the Rossmoor community, a driver was injured and a passenger was killed after a large tree fell on a car, the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District said.
In Oakland, a man inside a tent died Tuesday night after a tree fell on it near Lake Merritt.
Two people also died at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital Tuesday while receiving treatment for injuries sustained in separate storm-related incidents, according to city officials.
In the Monterey Bay region, Santa Cruz County was hit by gusts of up to 80 mph (129 kph). Along the shoreline of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, ocean spray blew across the roads like great flakes of snow.
Some 82,000 customers lost power Wednesday night across the state, according to PowerOutage.us.
The National Weather Service said Tuesday’s storm, which struck on the first full day of spring after the state’s extraordinary winter, was a Pacific low-pressure system that had been interacting with California’s No. 12 atmospheric river since late December. .
California’s unexpected siege of wet weather after years of drought also included February blizzards driven by arctic air.
The storms have caused flooding and loaded the mountains with so much snow that roofs have been crushed and workers have struggled to keep roads clear of avalanches.
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