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Wild winter storm could bring waterspouts, tornados along California’s Central Coast

People walk along a snow-covered Twin Lakes State Beach in Santa Cruz.
People walk along a snow-covered Twin Lakes State Beach in Santa Cruz on Thursday. The Central Coast could see waterspouts from the latest storm, forecasters say.
(Karen Krenis / Associated Press)
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California’s wild winter storm could generate waterspouts off the Central Coast, with the potential to move onshore and form small tornadoes in western Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties Friday, the National Weather Service warned.

Two warnings were issued for Santa Barbara County around 10 a.m. A tornado warning was issued for the town of Casmalia and a landspout warning was issued for Honda, west of Lompoc, according to the National Weather Service.

A landspout is similar to a tornado, but the circulation from the funnel starts at ground level and is pulled up into towering cumulus clouds, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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Satellite imagery showed a storm system approaching the coast near Casmalia that was actively spinning, said meteorologist Ryan Kittell with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

Late winter storms will bring snow to high elevation regions in parts of Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

Feb. 23, 2023

But once the storm system made landfall it dissipated.

“It was short-lived,” Kittell said. “It was spinning and that’s one of the ingredients for a tornado.”

The warnings were in effect until 10:30 a.m. and the advisory urged residents to seek shelter with the possibility of pea-sized hail.

While the warning was only meant for Santa Barbara County, residents in San Luis Obispo County also received the alert on their phones, according to Santa Barbara County’s Office of Emergency Management.

A weak tornado generated by a powerful winter storm toppled several trees in southeast L.A. No damage or injuries were reported.

Feb. 23, 2023

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It’s unclear if there was any reported damage in Casmalia, north of Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The area is expecting “intense showers and isolated thunderstorms” over the ocean until 11 a.m. Those in turn could generate the dangerous cyclones. Weather officials warned extreme storms along the Central Coast could also bring damaging winds and small hail. Coastal waters will remain particularly dangerous through Saturday, officials have warned.

Along Santa Barbara County’s coast, mostly west of Lompoc, the area has already seen significant rain and thunderstorms Friday morning accompanied by some minor flooding, according to the National Weather Service. Much of that region remained under a flood advisory through 10 a.m. Friday, with warnings of heavy rainfall prompting shallow debris flows, especially in low-lying or steep terrain.

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