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Tornadoes in California?

At 6:28 p.m. Friday the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for Sacramento, Sutter and Yolo counties after a trained spotter reported a funnel cloud. The tornado reportedly touched down a couple of times near Woodland

"It seemed like a scene out of a movie," said Dillon Davis, who captured video of the funnel cloud.

Unlike in a movie, tornadoes in California are all too real and not as rare as you might think. Just two years ago, the Sacramento area had five tornadoes in one day. Four were EF1 and one was EF0.

A 2005 USA Today article looked at tornadoes in the Golden State. "From 1950-2004, there were 303 documented tornadoes in California, and, since 1993, an additional 57 waterspouts in the state's coastal waters — an average of almost six tornadoes and five waterspouts per year," the article reported. "But so far in 2005, California is more like Tornado Alley, with about 20 tornadoes in the state, including 12 in Sacramento County — more than in the Oklahoma City metro area!"Though 80 percent of California tornadoes are weak, with Fujita scale rankings of EF-0 or EF-1, there have been a number of significant storms in populated areas. With 41 tornadoes, five of which were ranked as F-2, Los Angeles County ranks as the tornado capital of the state. Nearby Orange County has had 28 tornadoes and at least as many waterspouts concentrated in its relatively small area of 798 square miles.

In a recent study, veteran California tornado expert John Monteverdi of San Francisco State University estimated that approximately half of the state's tornadoes are spawned by supercells. The remainder are the result of smaller circulations, including a number of "cold air funnels."California has had two unique tornado events in the past decade. In 1998, an F-2 tornado in Sunnyvale was the first anticyclonic supercell and anticyclonic tornado to be documented with the WSR-88D NEXRAD radar. And in July 2004, the highest-elevation tornado ever observed in the USA. was photographed along Rockwell Pass in the Sequoia National Park, at an elevation of about 12,000 feet."Yesterday's tornado has yet to be ranked on the Enhanced Fujita scale. Members of the NWS will visit the site to confirm if there was a touchdown and inspect if there was any damage, before an official classification can be made.

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