Winter storm moving through SoCal spawns tornado

An aerial view of a downed tree blocking a roadway.
A weak tornado toppled a tree in La Mirada.

A weak tornado generated by the frigid winter storm that arrived Thursday in Southern California felled a few trees on Thursday in Los Angeles County.

About 11:30 a.m., “a benign, short-lived vortex” brought down at least one tree in the southeast region of La Mirada, said Joe Sirard, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard. KTLA-TV footage showed where several trees had fallen in the path of the tornado.

Weak tornadoes that are not strong enough to be classified under the Enhanced Fujita Scale are also called “land spouts, the land equivalent of a water spout,” he said.

EF-0 is the weakest category, with wind speeds between 65 and 85 miles per hour. By comparison, the strongest category, EF-5, produces devastating wind speeds of more than 200 mph.


Already dumping snow in Northern California, the storm is set to intensify as it moves to Southern California, bringing blizzard warnings to the mountains.

Feb. 24, 2023

These vortexes are created when a cold, low-pressure system high in the atmosphere creates a spin in the air masses at low levels.

They generally travel only a few hundred yards and last several minutes, Sirard said.

Tornadoes in La Mirada are “somewhat rare but not unusual,” he added. “We get periodic situations across our area where atmospheric conditions are conducive to weak tornadoes [over land], water spouts [over the ocean].”

There were no reports of injuries or apparent damage to homes, according to KTLA.

Enough snow was spotted near the Hollywood sign Thursday morning for residents to make snowballs.

Feb. 23, 2023