Think Tornadoes Don’t Happen in California? Think Again

tornadoWhen you think of tornadoes, you don’t usually think of California. However, Mother Nature has been known to have a few tricks up her sleeve, so don’t forget about tornadoes when making your disaster plan.

Though tornadoes are rare, it is still important to be prepared. Last month, a tornado touched down in the Central Valley town of Denair causing thousands of dollars’ worth of damage. Earlier this month, tornadoes also touched down in Stanislaus and El Dorado counties. One of the strongest in California history happened in 1983 in Los Angeles and injured 30 people.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in the last 10 years, California has had 75 reports of tornadoes. That may seem significant, but compared to a tornado alley state such as Kansas who saw more than 500 tornadoes in just the last 12 months on record, tornadoes are not a common occurrence in the Golden State. On a national scale, 1,000 tornadoes hit the U.S. each year.

There are many steps you can take to prepare for a tornado. Here are a few:

  • Build an emergency kit.
  • Create a family communications plan.
  • Monitor weather forecasts and listen to NOAA weather radio. Make sure you have a radio that can be used without a power source.
  • Be alert to changing weather.
  • Understand the difference between a tornado watch and a warning.
    • Tornado Watch – Tornadoes are possible. Remain alert for approaching storms. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or television for information.
    • Tornado Warning – A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately.

For more detailed information about tornado preparedness or what to do if you find yourself in a tornado, visit You can also visit to learn how you can be Storm Ready.

Monica Vargas

Monica is an Information Officer for the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES). She has been involved in the Aliso Canyon Gas Leak, Valley Fire, Butte Fire, historic drought, Oroville Dam Emergency Spillway Incident, 2017 winter storms, North Bay Fires, Camp Fire, Ridgecrest Earthquake, 2020 Puerto Rico earthquake EMAC PIO, 2020 fire siege and the COVID-19 pandemic. She previously served Cal OES as an analyst in the executive, international affairs and technology offices.

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