January 20, 2010 in Nation/World

California storms prompt evacuations

Tornadoes believed spotted in areas
Raquel Maria Dillon Associated Press
Associated Press photo

A man sits on the hood of a car in Long Beach, Calif., on Tuesday.
(Full-size photo)

LOS ANGELES – The second in a series of powerful storms wreaked havoc Tuesday on Southern Califonia, crushing a woman to death with a fallen tree, smashing windows and flooding coastal neighborhoods.

San Diego Sheriff’s Lt. Mike Munsey said the woman was killed when a eucalyptus tree with a 10-foot diameter trunk crushed her trailer and a neighbor’s in a mobile home park near El Cajon.

Los Angeles County fire officials said they would issue mandatory evacuation orders for about 600 homes in flood-prone foothill areas beginning early today in anticipation of the next storm.

Forecasters said thunderstorms and what looked like tornados surged ashore with fierce winds in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles County beach towns and areas of Orange and San Diego counties.

In San Pedro, a working class neighborhood near the Port of Los Angeles, several blocks were flooded with about six feet of water when storm drains clogged with debris.

Jerry Bazan spent the afternoon sweeping several inches of water out of his living room, where toys, sodden clothing and furniture were strewn about and a thick layer of mud coated the floor. Bazan said the water rose to about two feet in his apartment within a matter of minutes.

Kimmara Acosta, 51, a saleswoman at Castle Tile in Costa Mesa, was sitting at her desk when she saw palm trees outside blowing horizontally.

“The wind kind of whipped through the parking lot, and the window blew in,” she said, still breathless a half-hour later. “It was like an explosion. My mind said ‘earthquake!’ and I ducked under the desk.”

High winds flipped a parked SUV onto its side and blew out windows in Seal Beach, but forecasters need to examine the damage and interview witnesses before they can confirm that a tornado swept through.

Santa Barbara fire officials said what looked like a small tornado cut a path of damage across a residential neighborhood of Goleta.

Unlike twisters in the Midwest that can run for miles on the ground, Southern California tornadoes tend to start as waterspouts and dissipate quickly when they come ashore, said Philip Gonsalves, a National Weather Service meteorologist in San Diego.

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