Los Angeles-Area Tornado Was Region’s Strongest In 40 Years

The rare tornado that hit the Los Angeles area Wednesday was the strongest to hit the region in 40 years, officials said today.

The National Weather Service rated the Montebello twister as EF1, with winds of 110 mph. That made it the strongest tornado recorded in the area since an F2 caused major damage in March 1983. The last time an EF1 tornado occurred in the area was in January 1998 in Long Beach, NWS said.

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The tornado that touched down in Montebello, about 12 miles southeast of downtown L.A., tore the roofs off buildings, damaged vehicles and wiped out trees. County fire officials said one person was injured and that nearly a dozen of the 17 businesses examined by inspectors were red-tagged, meaning they are no longer suitable for occupation. You can scroll through a gallery of images from Montebello by clicking on the photo above.

The F2 tornado on March 1, 1983, ripped through the area then known as South-Central Los Angeles as drivers were commuting to work. It traveled north toward USC before disappearing into the clouds near the Convention Center. More than two dozen people were injured, and local media at the time reported that nine people were killed, though official records do not confirm that. The National Centers for Environmental Information did say that about 50 homes and seven businesses were damaged by the twisted that measured 3.5 miles long and 100 yards wide. See the NCEI’s analysis here.

It occurred amid one of the strongest and most destructive El Niño events in recorded history. The 1982-83 El Niño hammered Southern California with drenching rains that caused widespread flooding and badly damaged portions of the piers in Santa Monica, Huntington Beach and elsewhere up and down the Southern California coast. It also forced the closure of the Venice Pier, which would not reopen for 15 years.

California has been clobbered by severe storms all winter long. The National Weather Service said at least a dozen significant “atmospheric river”-fueled storms have hit the state since December, causing widespread flooding and other property damage while also helping to relieve long-running drought conditions. The first day of spring brought yet another wild storm that triggered the Montebello tornado.

Launch Gallery: Tornado Touches Down Near Los Angeles: Photo Gallery

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