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Tornado Warning in Southern California; ‘Once-in-a-Millennium’ Rainfall in Oxnard

A slow-moving rainstorm that moved south from Northern California triggered a rare tornado warning in Southern California on Thursday, and Ventura County, north of Los Angeles, experienced historic flooding.

The Los Angeles Times reported:

Preliminary data suggest that Oxnard experienced one of the heaviest downpours ever seen in the area, with rainfall rates of 3 inches an hour sustained for over an hour.

“The frequency of this kind of event is on the order of once in every thousand years,” meteorologist Mike Wofford with the National Weather Service in Oxnard said of the storm. In addition to the deluge in Oxnard, more than 1.54 inches of rain fell on the Ventura Auto Center in 15 minutes.

The agency briefly issued tornado warnings for the Port Hueneme, Oxnard, El Rio, Saticoy and San Buenaventura areas just before 1:30 a.m. and again at 2:30 a.m., but there was no evidence a tornado had touched down, Wofford said. The agency issued multiple flash flood warnings just before 4 a.m. farther inland and special warnings for possible waterspouts and high winds near Point Mugu.

The UK Guardian noted:

Firefighters rushed to rescue residents at a senior community in Port Hueneme, using tactical vehicles to navigate the rising waters, as the county sheriff’s office of emergency services ordered roughly 60 nearby homes to evacuate. Along with people, responders saved a half-dozen animals – birds, cats and dogs – the Ventura County Star reported.

By Thursday morning, stranded cars were submerged along roads in Santa Barbara county, as local emergency management warned residents to stay off the streets.

The storm swept through northern California earlier in the week as the center of the low-pressure system slowly moved south off the coast. Forecasters described it as a “cutoff low”, a storm that is cut off from the general west-to-east flow and can linger for days, increasing the amount of rainfall.

The Guardian cited a climate scientist who suggested that climate change could bring warmer and rainier winters. However, thus far the historical record shows no significant change in precipitation due to a warmer climate.

Thursday was the winter solstice, and the first day of winter, which is typically cool and rainy in Southern California, except during periods of drought.


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