HomeOutdoorsWeatherEF-1 Tornado Rips Through Northern California Amid Deadly Storms

EF-1 Tornado Rips Through Northern California Amid Deadly Storms

by Caitlin Berard
Tornado Rips Through Field During Severe Storm
(Photo by mdesigner125 via Getty Images)

As California residents continued to face flooding, heavy rains, and high winds from the deadly storms sweeping the state, the National Weather Service issued a near-unheard-of warning to Northern California communities. In the dead of night on Tuesday, residents received tornado warnings and, just after 4 am, an EF-1 tornado touched down.

On Wednesday morning (January 11), the NWS confirmed the tornado. Officials reported that it touched down about 6 miles north of Milton in Calaveras County. The unusual weather marked the first tornado warning in Northern California in over 20 years. Tornado watches, issued by the Storm Prediction Center when tornado conditions are present, have never been issued along the West Coast.

All across Turlock, Modesto, and Oakdale, residents awoke to blowing rain, their homes shuddering under the constant thunder and lightning rumbling through the air. “It’s pretty scary because we don’t really see that around here in this area,” Californian Giselle Tadeo told CBS News.

The National Weather Service issued not one but two tornado warnings, waking California residents able to sleep through the seemingly never-ending string of raging storms. “I got the alert around 3:45 a.m.,” said Brittney James. “So, I saw the thundering, the lighting – all of that.”

Meanwhile, others didn’t realize what had occurred until Wednesday morning, shocked by the extensive damage to the trees and roofs throughout the area. “I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh,'” BJ Davis said. “I was asleep at that time.”

California Tornado Downs Trees, Moves Buildings During Violent Storm

As a “line of severe thunderstorms rolled through the area,” Northern California was buffeted with 90 mph winds, the storm causing extensive damage to both trees and property. The storms began around 4 am, the vicious weather moving across the San Joaquin Valley.

Minutes later, the ferocious winds lifted a large horse barn, carrying it over a 5-foot fence before dropping it again. Other properties nearby suffered roof damage.

Though the NWS radar did detect a rotating storm in Northern California, they didn’t expect a full-blown tornado. “The radar at the time indicated a line of strong thunderstorms with gusty winds and areas of rotation on the storm and other storms across the area,” they said in the event summary. “This is not uncommon and the vast majority of weakly rotating storms do not produce a tornado.”

At 4:10 am, however, the EF-1 tornado touched down near Milton. The roaring funnel tore a 50-yard-wide path for about half a mile, ripping white oak and pine trees from the ground as it went. According to the National Weather Service, the warning gave Stanislaus County 17 minutes of lead time, while Calaveras County has 27 minutes.

Thankfully, the tornado didn’t injure or kill anyone along its destructive path. California residents, however, remain shaken by the savage storm. “It’s kind of crazy,” Samantha Magana said. “You don’t even know if it’s going to rain. We’re not like prepared for tornadoes and stuff.”