A rare yet powerful tornado struck a Los Angeles suburb on Wednesday, ripping roofs off a line of commercial buildings and sending the debris twisting into the sky.
One person was injured in the extreme weather, with the National Weather Service confirming the tornado had touched down in Montebello at around 11.20am on Wednesday.
The weather service later said that the tornado had winds of 86mph to 110mph, making it the strongest tornado to hit the Los Angeles metropolitan area since March 1983.
“It’s definitely not something that’s common for the region,” said meteorologist Rose Schoenfeld of the weather service.
City spokesman Alex Gillman said the injured person was taken to a hospital in Montebello and he did not know the severity of the injury.
Debris was spread over more than one city block, while inspectors checked 17 buildings in the area and marked 11 of them as uninhabitable, according to the fire department. Several cars were also damaged.
One man who experienced the tornado, Michael Turner, said he could hear the winds get stronger from inside his office at the 33,000sq ft warehouse he owns just south of downtown Montebello.
He went outside after the lights started flickering to find his employees gazing up at the ominous sky, before bringing everyone inside.
“It got very loud. Things were flying all over the place,” Mr Turner said. “The whole factory became a big dust bowl for a minute. Then when the dust settled, the place was just a mess.”
Among other damages to his property, a 5,000sq ft section of roof was “just gone,” Mr Turner said.
He said his polyester fibre business, Turner Fiberfill, could be closed for months, adding: “I’ve been in California since 1965. Never seen anything like this. Earthquakes – we’re used to that.”
The severe weather comes amid a strong late-season Pacific storm that brought damaging winds and more rain and snow to saturated California.
The National Weather Service said the storm was tapering off in California from north to south while pushing inland across the southwest, the Four Corners region and the central and southern Rockies.
Extreme weather caused by ‘explosive cyclogenesis’
Meteorologists said extreme conditions across California were caused by an extraordinary drop in barometric pressure over the eastern Pacific and described it as “explosive cyclogenesis” – otherwise known as a “bomb cyclone”.
In a briefing on Tuesday, UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain confirmed this notion by saying the weather system had reached the benchmark for a phenomenon known as bombogenesis, or a “bomb cyclone”, indicating a rapid drop in pressure, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Two people were killed on Tuesday as the storm battered the San Francisco Bay area with powerful gusts and downpours. A total of five deaths have so far been attributed to the storms.
Another tornado hit a mobile home park in the Santa Barbara County city of Carpinteria on Tuesday, with gusts up to 75mph that damaged around 25 homes.
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Elsewhere, some residents of north-central Arizona were told to prepare to evacuate their homes on Tuesday because of rising water levels in rivers and basins.
Around 82,000 customers were without electricity Wednesday evening throughout the state, according to PowerOutage.us.