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Tornado rips through Costa Mesa neighborhood

January 19, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Tornado warnings were out for parts of Orange County this afternoon, and at least two funnel clouds came ashore, causing damage. One was in Costa Mesa.Many heard the warnings that a tornado might be heading their direction, but a lot of them dismissed it thinking that tornados don't happen in California. This may not be Kansas or Oklahoma, but around 1 p.m., folks in Costa Mesa got a chance to feel what it is like to live in tornado alley.

"It was something like out of a movie," tornado witness Holly Moro said. "It was black, it was pitch black outside and just crazy. It was unbelievable."

"It was banging," Iris Henry said. "It was kind of like an earthquake and a bad wind storm, and thunderous, and it was really loud. Then all of a sudden it was just silent."

Whittier Avenue and 17th Street were turned into a debris field with tree branches, and pieces of rooftop from an office building thrown all over by the tornado.

"The windows were just rattling, and I thought what's going on? And I looked outside, and I just saw this big mass." Tornado witness Lori Mackey said. "It was brown and black, and there was so much debris rolling around in it. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I was on the phone, and I was just shaking. I said that I was looking right at the tornado and its coming this way, and I was so scared, and I thought I better hide."

Two blocks away at Greenleaf Mobil Home Park, a carport awning was blown over a house, and into a transformer.

"You could tell that the wind had changed direction very rapidly," mobile-home resident John Each said. "My wife was watching the rain go left to right, then all of a sudden it was up against the windows, and the house started shaking, and the roof blew off."

The powerful storm left behind flooded streets in Santa Ana, roof damage in Costa Mesa and many of the residents had their nerves rattled.

"I am still shaking," Moro said. "This is an unbelievable experience to say that I was in a tornado in California."

"Earthquakes are easy," Mackey said. "That was scarier than an earthquake for sure."

Crews are working throughout the night getting all of the cleaning and repairing done to all of the buildings and homes in the area in time for that next wave of rain that is expected to arrive on Wednesday.