Video captured by witnesses showed winds ripping material off roofs and thrashing debris in the air as a rare tornado as it touched down in Los Angeles on Friday, provided a grim illustration why scientists have formed a consensus on the connection between extreme storms and climate change.
The United States experiences more tornadoes than any other country on earth but a destructive vortex of violently rotating winds is highly unusual for sunny California.
“I saw the palm trees swinging, and I wanted to know what it was really,” said Jamie Mena, who recorded the tornado on his cellphone camera. “Nobody got hurt as far as I know.”
The National Weather Service confirmed that a tornado touched down about 9:20 a.m. It damaged an apartment complex roof, the roofs of two homes and a steel billboard, knocked down trees and blew out windows.
The twister was deignated EF0, the smallest type of tornado with winds reaching 65 to 85 mph, said Eric Boldt, ?Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the National Weather Service (NWS) Office in Oxnard, which serves the Greater Los Angeles area.
“We’re going to call it a small tornado,” said Boldt, who noted that at least two waterspouts were observed off the Southern California coast.
Officials confirmed that Friday’s was the first tornado to strike in Los Angeles County since 2007 and the first in the city of Los Angeles since 2004.
“All of the sudden I heard something rumbling, and one of my neighbors was here and she said, ‘The trash can is flying, we’re having a tornado,'” Marleen Benefield said. “I said, ‘No, not in Cali, we don’t do that!”
Boldt estimated that as many as 3 million people in Los Angeles County received the area’s first emergency weather alert on Friday around 2 a.m., along with a text message reading: “Flash flood warning.”
“We are warning people to go to high ground during a flash flood, or if there’s debris flow to stay in their house and take shelter until it’s over,” said Boldt. “Since we haven’t had a lot of storms in the past, this is the first time we issued a flash-flood warning to a large part in the metro area.”
The tempest is powered by a phenomenon, dubbed Pineapple Express – a powerful stream transporting warm air and moisture from Hawaii to the US – could be the most significant storm in 10 years.
A study published in the journal Climate Dynamics linked severe tornado outbreaks to climate change, finding that although twisters are occurring fewer days per year than they used to, they are forming at greater density and strength.
Influenced by increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the impact that has on planetary temperatures, violent disturbances such as the powerful Pacific storm are expected to become more common.
The storm will not provide any relief from a severe four-year-long drought in California but it has pummeled the US West Coast with heavy rains, snowfalls and strong winds, even leaving two people dead in Oregon.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday called climate change a “global threat” that he said “ranks up there, equal” with any other, including terrorism, extremism, epidemics, poverty and nuclear proliferation.
“If any challenge requires global cooperation and effective diplomacy, this is it,” Kerry said. “Mankind is creating the problem and mankind can solve the problem, and unlike some problems that we face, this one already had a ready-made solution provided by mankind that is staring us in the face. The solution to climate change is energy policy.”
Connect with NJTODAY.NET
Join NJTODAY.NET's free Email List to receive occasional updates delivered right to your email address!