We’re Not in Kansas, We’re in California

The last few storms to come through California brought with it some wild weather, including thunderstorms and the threat of tornadoes. And while it is rare, tornadoes do happen in our state.

According to the American Meteorological Society, approximately 1,000 tornadoes strike the United States annually and about 11 occur in California. Compared to their Midwest and Southern counterparts, California tornadoes are generally small, but even the small ones can cause severe damage.

On April Fool’s Day in 1996, five tornadoes touched down near the city of Stockton. This event marked the highest number of tornadoes in one day for California. While there were no reports of injuries, the twisters flattened barns, sank over 200 boats in a marina, as well as up rooted trees and knocked down power poles.

Spring is the time of year California sees most of its tornadoes and being that spring has arrived now is the perfect time to review what to do in the event of a tornado warning.

Tornado warnings mean that a tornado has been spotted, or that radar has indicated that one exists. When a warning is issued in your area, depending on where you are, take the following precautions:

  • In a home, school, or office building – Go to a basement or cellar. For structures without a basement or cellar, go to the lowest floor and take shelter in an interior room away from windows. Stairwells without windows also are good places to take shelter. Crouch down and cover your head.
  • In a vehicle – If there is time, try to drive to a shelter. If there is not enough time, it is best to pull over and park, but do not get out of your vehicle. Do not seek shelter under bridges or overpasses, because these offer little protection. Put your head down below the windows and cover your head.
  • Outdoors – If there is time, try to find a sturdy building, shelter, or vehicle. If there is not enough time, get as low to the ground and cover your head.

For more information or additional resources, check out the following:

“Think Tornadoes Don’t Happen in California? Think Again” – OES Newsroom Blog by Monica Vargas

The National Severe Storms Laboratory

FAQ: What’s a Watch? (VIDEO)


American Red Cross

Robb Mayberry

Robb Mayberry is a Public Information Officer for the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. He has assisted in the response and recovery efforts with some of California’s worst disasters, including the San Refugio Oil Spill, the Valley and Butte Wildfires, Aliso Canyon Gas Leak, Erskine Fire, and the Winters Storms of 2017. Prior to public service, he spent 25 years managing the public and media relations for some of Northern California’s largest healthcare organizations.

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