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Tornado touches down in Vernon, damages buildings as El Niño storm pounds state

Tornado touches down in Vernon, damages buildings as El Niño storm pounds state
Trash collectson the banks of the Los Angeles River after a heavy rainstorm passed through the area, raising the water levels in the river in Vernon. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

A tornado briefly touched down in Vernon on Tuesday as heavy rain generated by El Niño lashed Southern California, flooding roadways and snarling traffic.

The tornado damaged roofs and other parts of up to eight commercial structures shortly before 1 p.m. in the small industrial city located in southeast Los Angeles County, said Fred MacFarlane, a city spokesman.

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The heavy winds also sent debris into the air, damaging vehicles parked near 49th and 50th streets at Loma Vista Avenue. Buildings in the 4100 block of Bandini Boulevard also sustained damage, MacFarlane said in a statement.

The Vernon Public Works Department red-tagged three buildings in total, deeming them too dangerous to reenter.

The tornado downed power lines and caused outages at 30 businesses. Power was restored in less than 10 minutes, MacFarlane said.

No injuries were reported.

Small tornadoes are rare in Southern California but not altogether uncommon. In 2014, a tornado touched down in South Los Angeles, tearing off a roof and damaging five homes, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.

On Tuesday, heavy rains flooded roadways, including the 101 Freeway between Ventura and Santa Barbara. On Malibu Canyon at Pacific Coast Highway, boulders fell onto the roadway in what the California Highway Patrol labeled as a mud, dirt and rock slide, damaging four vehicles.

Heavy rains are forecast to return late in the morning on Wednesday, with a break possibly coming on Friday, according to the National Weather Service. Another storm system could pummel Los Angeles starting on Saturday night, weather officials said.

For breaking news in California, follow @MattHjourno.

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