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Tornado Injures 3 as Storm Hits State

December 18, 1992|ERIC MALNIC | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A tornado ripped through the Northern California town of Oroville on Thursday afternoon, injuring three people, destroying a mobile home, overturning cars and uprooting trees as a cold and blustery storm system headed south toward the Los Angeles Basin.

A second funnel cloud touched down 30 miles south of Oroville, near Marysville, but there were no reports of damage.

Thunderstorms hammered the Sacramento Valley on Thursday afternoon as the main body of the storm system approached the center of the state.

Scattered showers from the leading edge of the system began falling in Los Angeles at nightfall, a few hours after several waterspouts were reported about 30 miles off the coast of Oxnard.

Meteorologists said the storm would probably expend most of its fury well north of the Los Angeles metropolitan area, with only about a quarter of an inch of rain expected in the Southland's coastal valleys and less than six inches of snow forecast for the local mountains before the system moves out to the east sometime tonight.

Officials in Oroville, a city of 13,000 about 70 miles northeast of Sacramento, said the tornado touched down on the northern edge of town about 2:30 p.m., carving a swath of destruction about half a mile long.

Two women and an infant received minor injuries when the winds toppled a tree on top of their car. Witnesses said an unoccupied mobile home was smashed to pieces when the funnel cloud lifted the structure 60 feet and hurled it to the ground. Windows in several county buildings were shattered and 10,000 square feet of roofing was torn from one government building.

"We looked outside and saw people hanging onto the railings to keep from being blown away," Butte County Sheriff Mick Gray said. "Then (the winds) took the trees out and went over to County Center Drive, where it tipped a car over."

The winds downed power lines throughout the area, and many residences were without electricity as night fell.

Butte County's Department of Emergency Services said that about 30 to 35 homes suffered minor to moderate damage.

The cluster of thunderstorms that had spun off the tornado moved steadily to the southeast, and about 3:50 p.m. a second tornado touched down in farmland about 12 miles east of Marysville.

The center of the storm moved on to the south, dropping about a foot of snow in the Sierra Nevada and steady rain in the Bay Area, the San Joaquin Valley and along the central coast.

Avalanche warnings were posted on some back roads near Yuba Pass, and by 4 p.m., 0.44 of an inch of rain had fallen in Oakland, 0.31 in San Francisco, 0.12 in Santa Maria and 0.10 in Bakersfield.

An airplane pilot and a sailor said they saw several funnel clouds over the ocean 15 miles southwest of Oxnard as the front approached.

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