Tornado Hits Northern California Town

By DON THOMPSON | October 24, 2012

A tornado touched down north of the state capital Monday, ripping shingles off rooftops, scattering patio furniture and blowing down trees and power lines as a series of funnel clouds caused damage in a wide area stretching from south of Sacramento east to the Sierra foothills.

More wind damage was reported in suburban Elk Grove, just south of Sacramento, although a touchdown was not immediately confirmed there. Touchdowns were also reported in several other Northern California locations.

Damage appeared relatively minor, and no injuries were immediately reported.

The National Weather Service in Sacramento said the tornado hit about 3:15 p.m. near Yuba City, about 40 miles north of Sacramento. It was the only report of a confirmed tornado touching down.

“There was debris flying, trees down and damage to some buildings, structures,” Sutter County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Brenda Baker told KXTV-News10 in Sacramento. “We do have some lines down, power is out.”

One witness told the station that the tornado lifted up her barn and a boat, depositing them elsewhere on her property.

Sutter County Fire Department Battalion Chief John Shalowitz said firefighters could see the tornado touch down from their station in a mostly rural area about two miles south of Yuba City.

“It’s a lot of telephone and cable lines down, but thankfully nobody was hurt,” he told The Associated Press. “We have some roofing material that has been stripped from a couple of houses. A lot of trees down in the area.”

The region is dominated by fruit orchards.

The tornado also caused damage to the Mallard Lake Golf Center near Yuba City, although it mostly consisted of uprooted trees. No one answered the golf club’s telephone late Monday afternoon.

Shalowitz was unsure if more than one tornado hit the region.

“We’ve heard numerous reports, but nothing confirmed,” he said.

The tornado and an accompanying series of funnel clouds were part of the first storm of the season to hit Northern California.

Several funnel clouds were reported north of Sacramento, but National Weather Service meteorologist Eric Kurth said there were no other reports of touchdowns.

South of the capital, a funnel cloud damaged two homes and a business, Elk Grove Police Department spokesman Chris Trim said. Residents reported funnel clouds in the area about the same time as the tornado struck to the north.

He said the storm left behind a lot of scattered debris.

Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said high winds toppled power lines and trees in the Lake of The Pines area near Highway 49, midway between Auburn and Grass Valley in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

A tree fell on the fire station’s property, damaging a neighboring church, he said. It was not immediately clear how badly the church was harmed, he said.

National Weather Service meteorologist Karl Swanberg said a Yuba County sheriff’s deputy also reported that a tornado touched down in a rice field three miles southwest of Browns Valley, northeast of Yuba City. Another tornado was reported seven miles south of Polermo in Butte County.

National Weather Service crews were on the way to survey the damage to determine the wind speed and severity of the tornadoes, Swanberg said.

Moderate tornadoes are relatively common in California’s northern Central Valley. In May 2011, for example, tornadoes destroyed hundreds of acres of almond orchards, barns and garages near Chico.

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