The National Weather Service forecast for tomorrow is for winds from the southeast at 35 to 40 miles per hour, with wind shear at 5 miles per hour. The severe weather warning has been extended, with heavy rain likely in the afternoon. Highs and lows will be on the morning of Tuesday, October 19.
In a similar vein, a statement issued Wednesday afternoon issued a more detailed and ominous forecast for the next few days, noting, “We are seeing many tornadoes as they grow to the size of small cars and tornadoes in the area can become large tornadoes. We believe that all tornadoes should be reported in the order in which you think they will appear, and if we are correct it will not be until later tonight. The best chance of survival for many is to get down to someplace and go home. The risk is to be found where there are no roads but a small creek and a couple of old barns with no exits but some wooden shelter. If you cannot find a safe place, seek out a few places to hide.”
By this point of the week, some of the most dangerous tornadoes have already struck Southern California, a region which has experienced a spate of tornadoes each year for the last two decades.
On Wednesday afternoon, the National Weather Service in Riverside warned that at least 10 tornadoes have already damaged homes, and more are likely to hit in the coming days, including a twister which touched down at Lake Tahoe on Wednesday afternoon, the Weather Service said. A wind gust of up to 75 mph was recorded on Wednesday afternoon.
“The tornado was just a couple of feet away from one of our buildings and hit with no warning,” said Mike Schubert, a construction worker and resident of a home on a cul-de-sac on South Main Street, which was destroyed in the storm. “I saw a big white tornado coming right at me as it came through. … I was really scared, so I ran up the hill. I couldn’t get out of my house.”
Schubert, who lives across the street from the home where the twister struck, said he was on his way to work when he was knocked over from below. His neighbors told him a tornado touched down, and he went outside, hoping to avoid a potential tornado, as well.
“I saw it coming, and I was like what the hell?” said Schubert. “I didn’t know what to do. I was in shock. … I saw a big black cloud, and as it moved over my house, I heard that my neighbor was gone. Then there was a huge explosion.”
Schubert said he ran to a neighbor’s house to try to save his home, but he was too late: The house, which he had just built, had been destroyed.
“I was really scared, so I ran out to get my truck,” he said. “The house shook like it was on fire, but it was nothing like that.” A few hours later, he said, “I thought for sure that my house was going to fall down and I wasn’t going to make it.”
Schubert said the tornado hit his neighborhood at the same time as several other tornadoes, which the weather service said may have been triggered by weather-related conditions.
The most severe tornado in the area was a 1-mile-wide tornado that struck Riverside County’s town of Lake Tahoe in a span of about 30 minutes on Wednesday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.
“I’m shocked they couldn’t get to the scene sooner,” neighbor and Lake Tahoe resident Kevin Smith said. “There was a tornado just over our house. There’s not a lot of power in the area.”
Another neighbor, who only wanted to be identified as Tom, said, “I think everyone was scared out of their wits. We thought this would be a real tornado.”
He said the tornado was so strong it shook his family’s home, but, “We didn’t know what was going on. We weren’t ready. I just knew it had to be a tornado.”
A witness who saw the tornado described it as a “big, black cloud with no wind.” The tornado touched down about 50 yards from the home of Thomas Pyle, a construction worker and employee of the county, which was in flames, according to Schubert.
“He said it was a tornado,” said Schubert, pointing to a nearby home where a house that Pyle lives on collapsed.
The storm also injured three other people, who were treated at Riverside Medical Center, and one of them was flown by helicopter to the National Weather Service’s Sacramento headquarters for emergency management.
“The injuries were pretty bad,” Dr. Paul H. Miller, an emergency medical technician and a member of the National Weather Service’s weather division, said. “They were all pretty serious.”
He said he could not confirm any of the victims had died as a result of their injuries.
On Wednesday night, Riverside Fire Department Chief Steve Smith said the area where the tornado hit was “very heavily affected” and said that it would take up to 30 to 45 minutes for water to clear. Fire crews were working in the area to restore power to about 100 homes. “I’m very worried about the damage to the structures there,” Smith said. “If it had been a bigger storm, I don’t see that it would’ve been any different.”