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Tornado Hits Homes in Huntington Beach : Weather: Roofs are ripped apart, trees downed and power interrupted. Storms are expected to continue.

March 27, 1991|MATT LAIT and BILL BILLITER | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A tornado touched down Tuesday night in Huntington Beach, ripping roofs apart, sending shingles crashing through windows, mangling trees and causing a widespread power outage.

The twister swept in from the ocean about 10:30 p.m., damaging 40 to 50 homes in areas around Beach Boulevard, Newland Street and Atlanta and Indianapolis avenues, and knocking over about 20 carports at Driftwood Mobile Homes. No injuries were reported.

"It's a tornado," Huntington Beach Police Lt. Jeff Cope said. "You can tell by the damage, good Lord. Any time you got a cemented, 8-by-8 beam thrown around and a roof torn off, it's a tornado. . . . It looks like it's done a pretty good job on the city," he said.

Joyce Johnson, 47, a resident of Swansea Lane, where the tornado hit, said: "Glass went everywhere. We were watching TV and it started raining real fast. All of a sudden there was a noise and glass was breaking."

Part of the roof from a house behind the Johnsons' blew into their windows, and glass shattered over the bed that her daughter, Anisha Jackson, 19, would have been sleeping in if it hadn't broken earlier.

"I feel blessed," Johnson said. "Glass would have been all over her."

Said Jackson, "I would have had a different face."

"This has been a terrible night," said another neighbor, whose roof was ripped off. But others, she said, "looked like they got it worse."

Fallen trees blocked Magnolia Street and a power blackout affected an area of at least several blocks around Hamilton Avenue and Magnolia.

"There was just this big rumble and the house started shaking," said Judy Steeman of Swansea Lane. She and her husband, Boomer, gathered across the street at their neighbor's house where the wind blew a 25-foot Bayliner ski boat across the driveway, narrowly missing a parked car.

"Everybody knew it was a tornado because it was just a matter of about 15 or 20 seconds," said Boomer Steeman.

Roy Pearce, manager of Driftwood Mobile Homes near Beach Boulevard and Pacific Coast Highway, said about 20 carports and 10 roofs were blown down.

"You ought to see it back there," Pearce said. "It's a sight." Pearce stood in a heavy rain that continued to lash the coastal area past midnight.

Fire Capt. Bruce Burton, who was supervising emergency activities immediately after the heavy winds struck, said, "It looks like it hit right over the golf pro shop here, and then moved toward Beach Boulevard and toward some condos." Burton said information was sketchy but that no fires had resulted and none of the mobile homes overturned.

"There are no injuries here that we know of," he said.

The site is about half a mile south of the posh new waterfront Hilton hotel, which was thrown into inky blackness by the power outage.

Traffic on Pacific Coast Highway, which was blackened by the outage, came to a standstill.

Forecasters are predicting that the rain will continue until Thursday. Today was expected to bring more rain, with up to an inch falling in some parts of the county.

"I wouldn't be surprised if someone gets and inch and a half to 2 inches in the coastal mountain ranges," said Marty McKewon of WeatherData Inc., which provides forecasts for The Times. "There's going to be another pretty potent storm that will last most of the day and bring at least a half an inch of rain all across Orange County."

The storms also brought unseasonably cool temperatures. On Tuesday, Santa Ana and San Juan Capistrano registered lows of 44 degrees. Anaheim bottomed at 43 degrees.

But come Thursday, McKewon says, expect a dry and warming trend to clear up the weather in time for Easter and Passover weekends.

"After Wednesday it should be pretty decent," he said. "This should be the last storm for a while."

Temperatures on Thursday are expected to hover around 70 degrees countywide, rising into the mid-70s by Friday.

This latest storm is part of a storm pattern that has engulfed the West Coast since the beginning of March, bringing large amounts of snow from one end of the state to the other, with as much as 8 feet reported in some Sierra resorts since Saturday and quite a bit falling at lower altitudes in Southern California.

"What's happening is the storms are dropping out of Alaska to the West Coast, strengthening, then moving inland over Southern California," McKewon said. "Normally, they sweep right through the state but now they're gathering tropical moisture and increasing in intensity."

Not only was the snowfall much greater than usual for the end of March, but the storm remained violent. It spawned a tornado at Vandenberg Air Force Base, toppled one of the world's tallest redwoods near Eureka, and sent an oak tree crashing through the windshield of a car in San Joaquin County, killing the driver by piercing him through the chest.

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