A small, rare tornado raged through a South Los Angeles neighborhood Friday morning, launching wood and trash into the air amid a rainstorm that pelted Southern California.
The unusual event occurred about 9:20 a.m. near the intersection of Gage and Vermont avenues (map) in the Vermont-Slauson area.
The National Weather Service confirmed late Friday afternoon that the high winds were indeed a “small EF0 tornado.” Such tornadoes have wind speeds of 65 to 85 mph, the weather service said.
The tornado caused damage from Vermont and Gage avenues to Figueroa and 57th streets, the weather service said.
Amateur video of the tornado show debris sailing through the air and roof tiles circling wildly overhead and then coming down with a crash on top of a home.
The roof of an apartment building was lifted off into the air and a day care center was damaged, residents said. The tornado lasted less than a minute, according to witnesses.
“All of sudden, we heard banging and booming and my door flew open,” said Candy Ward, who had been watching TV with her granddaughter.
“We looked outside and everything was flying down the sidewalk. We saw the roof of the top of my building come flying off,” Ward said. “It was really wild.”
Another resident of the building said she came out of her apartment and saw a two-by-four fly by.
An employee at a nearby day care center, Garr Learning Center, said she was fixing food in the kitchen when something out the window suddenly caught her eye.
“I looked up and saw a trash can and (stuff) flying,” Deborah Lavergne said. “It got dark, then it got real cold. The wind, it just took off.”
The day care center’s sign was damaged and the windows were blown out, owner Gerae Vernon said.
“We saw the winds twirl up in the air 20 to 30 feet high,” Vernon said. “It took trees, anything that was in its way. It was trees, debris, wood, trash cans — it was all being whirled up in the wind by this tornado.”
Children at the day care center were safely kept away from the windows and were not harmed, Lavergne and Vernon said.
“I’ve been here 56 years and I have never seen a tornado,” Lavergne said. “It’s my first time. … It was crazy.”
Katherine Main of the Los Angeles Fire Department said there had been several reports of a “tornado” in South Los Angeles.
In its forecast for Friday’s storm, the National Weather Service had said small tornadoes were possible in Southern California.
A representative for the service’s Oxnard forecast office initially said they too had received calls about a possible tornado in South L.A. but had so far been unable to verify the phenomenon.
A field crew was likely heading to the scene to examine the damage and see if a tornado had occurred, the service’s Eric Boldt said. The service later announced on Twitter that the event was an “EF0 tornado.”
The category is the weakest type of tornado.
The roofs of an apartment complex and two home were damaged, as were trees and a steel billboard, the weather service said.
Though residents were not required to leave the damaged homes, Red Cross representatives were on scene.
“With all the possibilities and all the things that were going on with the weather, to have a tornado hit in the middle of Los Angeles is pretty extraordinary,” said Phyllis Cohn, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross Los Angeles Region.
There were no injuries, according to the disaster response organization.