Top LA Legends #17: Tornadoes are common in LA, but are referred to as wind anomalies

tornado.jpgToday we are having the typical sunny, mild, breezy, gorgeous weather that Los Angeles is known for. Who in their right mind would think Los Angeles has tornadoes? Earthquakes yes, but tornadoes, like in the Day After Tomorrow? Before I moved to LA, I was told that LA has the most tornadoes of any city in California, but they were never called tornadoes. They were called wind anomalies.

Even after this heated discussion a few days ago right here on, you might think the only tornado you’ll find in LA County is at Six Flags.

But you’re wrong. Tornadoes happened in Los Angeles on a frequent basis. I’m not arguing that the tornadoes do as much damage as their Midwestern kin, I’m just saying they happen. And I am personally responsible for one of them.

* Photo by jjosh2004

From USA Today:

The tornado struck the Los Angeles suburbs of Inglewood and Ladera Heights around 1:30 a.m., ripping the roof off a house, snapping trees and damaging cars, but causing no injuries. Dan Keaton, a National Weather Service meteorologist, confirmed that it was a twister after examining the damage.

More than 30 tornadoes have been recorded in Los Angeles County since 1918, but no deaths from them have been reported.

and more research revealed

Tornadoes are generally a lot less frequent west of the Rockies per unit area with a couple of exceptions. One exception is the Los Angeles Basin, where weak-tornado frequency over tens of square miles is on par with that in the Great Plains. Elsewhere, there are probably more high-elevation Western tornadoes occurring than we have known about, just because many areas are so sparsely populated, and they lack the density of spotters and storm chasers as in the Plains.


Tornadoes are not as rare in the Golden State as most people seem to think. From 1950-2004, there were 303 documented tornadoes in California, and, since 1993, an additional 57 waterspouts in the state’s coastal waters — an average of almost six tornadoes and five waterspouts per year. [Source]

According to this site, Los Angeles county had 41 recorded tornadoes, the most of any county listed! (Granted they were listed F0 – hence them being called wind anomalies.)

So take that you tornado haters. We’ve got your tornadoes right here and we’ll raise you to Hollywood!

(ps. Your added tornado bonus on this post comes from the author, who is personally responsible for a more recent tornado addition to Los Angeles. The Purple Tornado is the company I do business under. And it’s where I transform ideas into reality and in the process transmit those experiencing the reality into a metaphorical Land of Oz. Because, we all know that Los Angeles is not Kansas.)

* Photo by jjosh2004

3 thoughts on “Top LA Legends #17: Tornadoes are common in LA, but are referred to as wind anomalies”

  1. To be fair, the LA City Limits are huge compared to other cities, and it seems that other cities, such as Inglewood, are also included in LA county. The msot tornados seem to occur in a curved stretch from Long Beach and San Pedro, up towards Lomita, eastern Torrance/Gardena, Hawthorne, Inglewood, and right through South Central before tapering off somewhere towards Pasadena.

    I grew up in that part of Torrance and although I’ve never seen a tornado, i’ve seen instances of weird rotating clouds and hail, and in one case, when i was young, an apparent microburst came through and ripped apart all the trees in the neighborhood. Also we once got almost 2 inches of rain in an hour. Now I live in Ventura where I have also once observed a rotating cloud (probably the edge of a gust front and not a tornado).

    In any event, before anyone jumps on me, yes, the tornados here are much weaker than those in the midwest. Some of them are simply waterspouts that move inland, which although structurally very similar to tornados, tend to be weaker. (waterspouts, incidentally, are pretty common between Palos Verdes and Catalina). Also, to be fair, it seems that there are actually more tornados in the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta area west of Stockton than there are in LA.. but the area is sparsely populated. I saw a funnel cloud near there (in davis) once.

    both these areas are like mini midwests… areas where air coming off of the mountains or desert can mix with air coming off of the ocean. They are also two of the flattest areas in California… the Sierras get lightning and hail like you wouldnt believe in the summer but since they are flat, tornados can’t really form there… and the desert thunderstorms are the wrong kind to make tornados also.

    Anyway, any of my info which isnt personal observation comes not from ‘ecology of fear’ (which I did like) but from an older book about extreme California weather that I’ve forgotten the name of. It was a great book, I should find it.

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