Weather Blog

Tornadoes -- not just a Midwest thing

Tornadoes -- not just a Midwest thing
Tornadoes occur most frequently in the Midwest, but can happen anywhere in the United States. In fact, every state has seen at least one tornado. They are rare along the Pacific Coast because we don't get the extreme temperature differences needed to generate strong storms, but it happens, on average, about once a year for each Pacific Coast state.

And now California can consider their quota met. A tornado touched down in Riverside on Friday, near March Air Reserve Base.

The photo is one thing, but what does a tornado look like in weather geek speak? Take a peek below. It's rare enough to capture a tornado on film,  but even more rare to capture it in official weather observations.

Here is what the weather spotter at March AFB reported Friday when the tornado formed. 22 KRIV  SP 2330 8  37   10   FC+T         61  46 360  7       29.45       0                      AO2A TORNADO B30 4SE MOV S TS OHD MOV S

FC+ is code for "Funnel Cloud", and the + means  tornado. In the notes at the end, it's saying a tornado began at 30 minutes past the hour (2330 UTC time, which is 7 hours ahead of Pacific Daylight Time, or 3:30 p.m.) and it is 4 miles southeast of the area, moving south. A Thunderstrom (TS) is overhead moving south.

22 KRIV  SP 2338 8  39   10    TR-         61  46  30  8       29.46       0                      AO2A TORNADO E36 MOV S OCNL LTGICCG TS OHD MOV S 360V060

Here it is 8 minutes later. The tornado ended at 36 minutes past. There's occasional Lightning (LTG) In Cloud (IC) and Cloud-toGround (CG). The Thunderstorm is sill overhead, moving south.

22 KRIV  SP 2344  >120   10    FC+         61  48 100 10 14    29.46       0                      TSRAGS SCT025 OVC038CB AO2A TORNADO B42 ON FLD SW MOV S OCNL LTGICCG TS OHD MOV S

3:44 p.m. -- Uh oh, here comes another tornado. They are reporting a moderate Thunderstorm (TS) with Rain (RA) and Hail (GS -- don't ask where they get 'GS' from for hail. I think it's French).  The next three codes are cloud stuff (Scattered at 2500 feet; Overcast at 3800 feet with Cumulonimbus) but a tornado began at 42 minutes past and it's "ON FLD" which no pilot wants to read -- that means it's "on the field" or literally touched down on the Air Force Base airfield itself.  In this case, it's the southwest side of the field and it's moving south. And oh by the way, we still have occasional lightning in cloud and cloud to ground, and the thunderstorm is still overhead, moving south. Or basically: "Please don't fly here at this time."

22 KRIV  SP 2350  >120   10    FC+         61  48 110 26 31 31 29.45       0                      TSRAGR SCT025 OVC035CB AO2A TORNADO ON FLD SW STNRY  OCNL LTGICCG TS OHD MOV SW GR 1/2 PK WND 12031/2347

It's now 3:50. Still tornadoing outside. If they had one of those little rock weather forecasters that says stuff like "if it's wet, it's raining", it's likely gone now.  Only now the tornado is stationary on the southwest side of the field. Still occasional lightning, that darn thunderstorm is still overhead allegedly moving southwest, only now we also have 1/2" hail ("GR 1/2"). So not only is your $3.99 weather forecasting rock gone, but your car's windshield now has holes in it. Also of new note, they've had a peak wind gust of 31 knots (36 mph) out of the Southeast. (PK WIND 12031 -- the 120 is the wind direction, the 31 is speed in knots. The number after the slash is the time it was recorded.)

So, a 36 mph peak gusts tells me the tornado isn't exactly bearing down on the weather instrument. Maybe it's on the northeast side of the field.

22 KRIV  SA 2355 6  33   10 FC+TR-  998.0  59  49 100 20 31 31 29.46 3 00  T   T           67  57 COR AO2A TORNADO SW MOV SW  RAB38GRB50E55 TSB30 OCNL LTGIC OHD TS OHD-SW MOV SW GR 1/2 COR 0004 PK WND 12031/2347

3:55 p.m. -- Still tornadoing (yes, I've magically turned it into a verb, Microsoft Word, so you can stop flagging it in spell check), but now with a light rain (TR-) accompanied by lightning. Wind speed is still only 36 mph.  Oh look, the computer, despite tracking tornadoes, has enough time to spit out that the high there was 67 degrees today.  Don't you wish it was 67 here on Friday? According to our e-mail, many of you did. But at least we didn't have a tornado.

(Isn't that so California? Even with a tornado running around, it's still a pleasant near-70 degree day.)

23 KRIV  SP 0003 6  30    7    TR-         55  50 110 12       29.47       0                      AO2A TORNADO DSIPTD SW OCNL LTGICCG TS OHD-S-SW MOV SW

4:03 p.m.: The tornado has dissipated, but still some of that pesky occasional lightning in cloud and cloud to ground. So don't go looking for that rock forecaster just yet.

The tornado did topple a large semi truck on I-215 and knocked over a freight train about 100 yards away, but otherwise no one was injured. One thing to be thankful for for living on the West Coast -- what tornadoes we do get tend to be relatively weak compared to the Midwest monsters.