Los Angeles

“The Trash Can Is Flying”: Tornado Rips Rooftops, Downs Trees in South LA

Video captured by a witness showed winds ripping material off roofs and thrashing debris in the air

A tornado ripped parts of rooftops from buildings and spewed debris in South Los Angeles on Friday as a powerful fall storm walloped the region, the National Weather Service confirmed.

The small EF0 tornado touched down about 9:20 a.m. It damaged an apartment complex roof, the roofs of two homes and a steel billboard, knocked down trees and blew out windows.

An EF0 tornado is the smallest type of tornado, with winds reaching 65 to 85 mph, said Eric Boldt of the NWS.

Video captured by a witness showed winds bending palm trees before a sudden surge of roof material and debris went flying into the air.

"I saw the palm trees swinging, and I wanted to know what it was really," said Jamie Mena, who recorded the tornado on his cellphone camera. "Nobody got hurt as far as I know."

South LA residents who felt the tornado said they got down onto the ground thinking they were in the middle of an earthquake.

"All of the sudden I heard something rumbling, and one of my neighbors was here and she said, 'The trash can is flying, we're having a tornado,'" Marleen Benefield said. "I said, 'No, not in Cali, we don't do that!"

One man saw the roof of his own home come apart.

"I watched my roof of this house flip and go to the next street," Chris McCall said. "Don't try to outrun it. You can't."

The twister blew through streets from South Vermont and West Gage avenues to 57th and Figueroa streets, according to the NWS.

"I was out on the front porch, I got soaking wet," said Rose Beard, who was praying inside when a tornado forced a tree to topple onto her home. "I thought it was ironic, I just said 'Oh Lord, wash me,' and then boom! I just got drenched."

"Things were flying everywhere," Beard said. "As the day has progressed I'm more and more grateful the tree didn't fall on me. It's the most amazing thing I've ever seen."

Boldt said at least two waterspouts were seen off the Southern California coast.

"That's consistent with what we see for (waterspouts)," Boldt said. "Some of those move onshore once in a while and cause a small tornado on land."

The whirling wind comes on a day when rains soaked SoCal, sending mudslides into Ventura County neighborhoods and burying homes under piles of rocks.

Michelle Valles contributed to this report.

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