At least two people died as a powerful late-season tornado ravaged California, bringing damaging winds, rain, flash floods and snow. Forecasters said additional flooding was possible Wednesday in parts of the state.
The storm that started Tuesday adversely affected the central and southern parts of California, bringing threats of heavy runoff and mountain snowfall. In the north, intense hail was reported in Sacramento, the state capital. Locally heavy rain and snowmelt may cause flooding on Wednesday in southern California and central Arizona, the National Weather Service warned.
Videos and images were shared on social media platforms showing the extent of damage caused by gusty winds. In one of the videos doing rounds, the tornado could be seen ripping off the roof of a building.
This is a pretty significant tornado by CA standards since it hit a populated area, clearly caused damage, and may have caused injuries. (It's very hard to assess tornado strength from footage like this, but at the very least it appears stronger than a marginal/EF-0 event). #CAwx https://t.co/Minrv5t54Q— Daniel Swain (@Weather_West) March 22, 2023
Meanwhile, some 133,000 customers were without electricity early Wednesday throughout the state, according to PowerOutage.us.
Trees and power lines were reportedly downed in the San Francisco Bay Area. An Amtrak commuter train carrying 55 passengers struck a downed tree and derailed near the East Bay village of Porta Costa. The train remained upright and nobody was injured, Amtrak and fire officials said.
Part 2 pic.twitter.com/r3nHLvMNUe— SaveArtsakh (@njtehcherchian) March 23, 2023
According to a report by Associated Press, the California Highway Patrol said a man driving a sewer truck was killed when a tree fell onto the vehicle in the Bay Area community of Portola Valley. Meanwhile, another driver was injured and a passenger was killed after a large tree fell onto a car, in the community of Rossmoor, the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District said.
“Trees are down everywhere,” said Frank Kuhr, a resident who waited for hours last afternoon at a downtown supermarket for crews to remove large redwoods that were blocking a highway. “The wind has been unbelievable. Branches were flying through the air, and folks could hear trees just falling and cracking.”
“This one's a doozy,” the resident added.
The National Weather Service said Tuesday's storm, which came on the first full day of spring following the state's extraordinary winter, was a Pacific low-pressure system interacting with California's 12th atmospheric river since late December.
California's unexpected siege of wet weather after years of drought also included February blizzards powered by arctic air.
With a season-to-date snowfall of 634 inches (16.1 metres) at the main lodge, it was likely just one storm away from breaking the all-time record of 668 inches (16.9 metres) set in the 2010-2011 season.