Two Tornados Blow Through County

Written by Theresa-Marie Wilson

Theresa-Maria Wilson has been a journalist covering the North Coast and South County area for over 20 years. She is also the founder of Cat Noir CC and is currently working on a novel.

February 16, 2024

This National Weather Service map shows the area that came under a tornado warning Feb. 7.

Low-end tornados touched down in Los Osos and Grover Beach, according to the National Weather Service. 

Successive storms that pummeled much of the state in early February ended with a tornado warning in parts of the county on February 7. An emergency alert went out via cell phones telling people to be prepared and take cover.

The NWS arrived on the Central Coast on Feb. 8 to determine if the damage was caused by straight- line wind or a tornado. What is the difference? In brief all wind flows into a tornado. Debris is often laying at angles due to the curving of the inflow winds. All wind flows out from a downburst. Debris is often laying in straight lines parallel to the outward wind flow, according to NWS.

“The National Weather Service in Los Angeles / Oxnard, CA conducted a damage survey earlier todayand is confirming that two EF1 tornadoes occurred in San Luis Obispo County with this activity” the NWS reported. “One tornado was in Grover Beach, and the other tornado occurred affected [sic] the Los Osos area. These are the first tornadoes to occur in San Luis Obispo County since February 2, 2004, and the strongest tornadoes to occur in San Luis Obispo County since before 1950.”

Locally, the weather event that started at about 3:40 p.m. was short with winds and heavy rain that came on fast and were gone without much damage. 

South County got the brunt of it. In parts of Grover Beach, trees were ripped out of the ground, debris was flying, asphalt buckled, and power went out when the tornado hit at about 3:57 p.m.

Both tornadoes, rated low-end EF-1 meaning 86 to 110 mph winds, reportedly had peak winds of 95 miles per hour. No deaths or injuries were reported. 

Rating information from NWS report:

Los Osos

Rating:                 EF1
Estimated Peak Wind:    95 mph
Path Length /statute/:  5 miles
Path Width /maximum/:   50 yards 
Fatalities:             0
Injuries:               0

“A low-topped mini supercell moved onshore in the Los Osos area and produced a weak tornado just east of Los Osos. Damage along its path was intermittent in proximity to Los Osos Valley Road.

The damage consisted of several  snapped and downed power poles, with 

sections of a roof torn off a greenhouse. The tornado dissipated before reaching areas just west of San Luis Obispo.

Grover Beach

Rating:                 EF1
Estimated Peak Wind:    95 mph
Path Length /statute/:  1 mile
Path Width /maximum/:   50 yards
Fatalities:             0
Injuries:               0

“The tornado produced significant damage to 

trees and power lines as it tracked through Grover Beach. The tornado uprooted and toppled numerous trees, some falling onto and damaging vehicles and powerlines. Multiple businesses sustained damage, and the tornadic winds buckled metal garages. The tornado dissipated before entering Arroyo Grande.”

As a reminder, water spouts — essentially tornadoes over water — are not unheard of in local waters, as these big storms, including atmospheric rivers like the recent storm, can topple trees, blow roofs off of buildings and spawn tornadoes.

Readers are advised to be prepared in the event of bad weather, including stocking up on things like bottled drinking water, non-perishable foods, and a “Go bag” of supplies to last for several days.

Extra batteries for flashlights are a good idea, too, and listen to local radio and TV newscasts for storm warnings and advisories.

 

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