San Diego County found itself under a rare tornado warning during a historic storm that has already caused havoc in California.
The National Weather Service (NWS) issued the warning for inland parts of the county, including El Cajon, La Mesa, and Santee. The alert was part of the broader concern as a deadly storm unleashed hundreds of mudslides in Southern California, triggering multiple flood warnings.
The record-setting storm system had promised up to 3 inches of rain in San Diego and Los Angeles, intensifying fears of flooding and mudslides due to the heavily saturated ground. The region remained under a flood watch, anticipating excessive runoff that could result in flooding of various low-lying and flood-prone locations, according to NWS.
The situation escalated with the issuance of a Flash Flood Warning, signaling "life-threatening" conditions, as heavy rainfall approached 0.75 to one inch per hour. The warning, stretching from San Diego to Orange counties, expired at 1pm. Tuesday, affecting neighbourhoods like Oceanside and Fallbrook in San Diego County's northernmost tip.
During the warning, NWS warned of flash flooding near streams, creeks, and other waterways, posing threats to low-lying urban areas, highways, streets, and underpasses.
A rare Tornado Warning followed, impacting South Bay and East County, with potential risks of "pea-sized hail" and winds exceeding 40 miles per hour. Although the warning was canceled around 12:30pm and the system weakened below severe limits, it left San Diego State University on high alert, triggering a "Take Cover" alert for all students.
As the county braced for isolated thunderstorms and continued rainfall through Wednesday, authorities reported at least one casualty due to flooding — a migrant attempting to cross the swollen Tijuana River.
Despite the intensity of the storm, the NWS San Diego office noted no damage reports consistent with a tornado. The rare noontime tornado warning, the highest-level alert, kept residents on edge, urging immediate cover in the face of a possible tornado formation. Fortunately, with no reported touchdowns and the front dissipating, the threat subsided.