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Tornado leaves damage at Ventura Harbor, scatters strawberries in its wake

Tornado leaves damage at Ventura Harbor, scatters strawberries in its wake

Tornado leaves damage at Ventura Harbor, scatters strawberries in its wake

VENTURA, Calif. — Wild holiday weather touched down in Ventura County on Christmas night, including a tornado at Ventura Harbor and snow atop local mountains.

After damage was discovered Thursday at Ventura Harbor, a National Weather Service investigator assessed it and confirmed that it was the result of a tornado. The agency said the brief twister originated near the Santa Clara River and moved less than a mile across the harbor, apparently scattering strawberries from local agricultural fields.

The tornado was about 25 to 30 feet wide, and it hopped along its path from south-southeast to north-northwest, the agency said. It was rated a 0 — the lowest level — on the Enhanced Fujita Scale that’s used to measure tornado intensity and damage.

Five trees were downed, including one on Spinnaker Drive that was blocking the road, Ventura Harbor Patrol officials said. Andria’s Seafood restaurant lost a canopy on the south side of the building that was blown onto a fishing boat in the harbor. Strong winds also lifted paddle boats and kayaks at Ventura Boat Rentals and scattered them around. 

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At the harbor, where snow was visible Thursday on distant mountaintops behind a forest of ship masts, Douglas Cooper — who goes by Cooper — was busy cleaning up the aftermath of the tornado damage.

“It was calm last night,” said Cooper, who manages Ventura Boat Rentals, which has a fleet of more than 100 kayaks, paddle boats and other vessels. He had taken people out on a California Sleigh Ride on Christmas night and had been in the area until about 8 p.m.

Around 9 p.m., according to the weather agency, the tornado ripped through his fleet, upending paddle boats and moving two large racks filled with kayaks. Each rack weighs about 1,200 to 1,500 pounds, Cooper estimated.

“The wind lifted this whole thing up and moved it over,” he said while surveying racks that had shifted 5 or 10 feet and were blocking the dock walkway.

The weather agency estimates the small tornado’s wind speeds were around 65 to 85 mph.

The tiny twister kicked a ticket kiosk into the water, apparently sending it quite a distance from its post. Cooper said the kiosk was “super heavy” and had previously required four or five men to move it.

In the bottom of one of the company’s yellow kayaks, a red strawberry stood out.

Cooper had seen the berries earlier while driving in along Olivas Park Drive.

“There were strawberries in the street,” he said.

A tornado apparently deposited a strawberry in this kayak at Ventura Harbor, where damage was visible on Dec. 26, 2019, after a winter storm.
A tornado apparently deposited a strawberry in this kayak at Ventura Harbor, where damage was visible on Dec. 26, 2019, after a winter storm.

Several wood candy-cane lights Cooper had installed around the docks had also been snapped off by the tornado.

While cleanup required for the boat business was considerable, it appeared no vessels were destroyed, Cooper said.

On Spinnaker Drive, uprooted trees along one one section were marked off by red tape.

On the other side of the street, surfers and wave watchers gathered at Surfers Knoll as large sets rolled in.

Discovery of the damage came the morning after dual tornado warnings were issued in Santa Barbara County, with parts of Montecito, Carpinteria and Summerland said to be at risk. Emergency alerts lit up cellphones there at 9:34 p.m. and again at 9:58 p.m., although no tornadoes ultimately were reported there.

Wednesday’s storm system dumped more than 2 inches of rain in Thousand Oaks and more than in inch in many other parts of Ventura County, said Tom Fisher, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Oxnard.

A winter storm warning remained in effect for Ventura County until 6 p.m. Thursday. Those who had to travel were urged to carry an extra flashlight, food and water in the vehicle.

Shortly before 6 p.m. Wednesday, the California Highway Patrol issued a requirement to use chains on Highway 33 near Pine Mountain. The agency said heavy snowfall in the area was creating hazardous conditions.

What’s more, snowy weather closed Interstate 5 over the Grapevine overnight, tangling holiday travel and pushing motorists onto Highway 101, where traffic was at a crawl through parts of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties Thursday afternoon. The Grapevine remained closed as of 4 p.m. Thursday, according to California Highway Patrol. Highway 166 was also closed in Santa Barbara County.

In the local mountains, Highway 33 was closed from Wheeler Gorge north of Ojai in Ventura County to Highway 166 near Cuyama in Santa Barbara County. The rural route cuts through Los Padres National Forest land.

As the storm approached Wednesday, weather forecasters expected snow to fall as low as 2,500 feet elevation. Above 5,000 feet, at least a foot of snow fell on Southern California mountains, the weather agency reported Thursday.

Some showers were possible Thursday, and snow was expected to fall in the mountains during the day, forecasters said. Ventura County was expected to see only one-tenth to one-third of an inch of additional rain Thursday.

A wind advisory will be in effect from 6 p.m. Thursday until 6 a.m. Friday. The wind advisory was prompted by forecasts of north winds 10 to 20 mph with gusts up to 35 mph along the Ventura County coast. 

Clear conditions are expected on Friday and temperatures will be near normal by the weekend, according to the weather agency. Beyond the weekend, a moderate storm is possible Monday and Tuesday with up to an inch of rain, although the forecast is not certain.

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This article originally appeared on Ventura County Star: California tornado part of wild weather along snow, rain in Ventura


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