Tornado warning bewilders Peninsula residents

Water spout off of Ocean Beach, sent in by Neorick via uReport.

March 19, 2011 1:13:50 AM PDT
On Friday night, wild weather continued to hit the Bay Area with rain, hail, and lightning. Earlier on Friday there was a waterspout off the coast of Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

Friday night, PG&E said about 5,600 customers lost power in El Cerrito, Kensington, and Berkeley.

Many people expected rain, but they didn't expect such a downpour of hail. The hail may last until Saturday morning, since the temperatures are low. The hail was accompanied by thunder and lightning.

Small Craft advisory impacts local fishermen

In Half Moon Bay, waves crashed against the break wall and boat owners at Pillar Point Harbor prepared themselves for the storm earlier on Friday. Many doubled up on their lines to help tie down their boats.

The big concern is the swells which are expected to reach 12 feet -- prompting a small craft advisory. Many local fishing boats also are not going out to sea, which is having an impact on seafood retailers like the Half Moon Bay Fish Market.

"They're asking, 'Do you have any local halibut?' I tell them, 'We don't have any right now because of the weather,'" said John Minaidis Jr. from the Half Moon Bay Fish Market.

The fish market is sold out of whole halibut and rock fish and their crab supply is low. Minaidis expects he'll suffer a 30 percent loss.

In Santa Cruz, the bad weather isn't just having an economic impact on the harbor, which has been closed for a full week since last week's tsunami, its hampering clean-up efforts. Friday, divers were forced to suspended operations until further notice.

The only ones who seemed to enjoy this weather were three surfers near Half Moon Bay.

"It's fun to surf some storm rolls, get some fun waves," said teen surfer Cole Walter.

Tornado warning bewilders Peninsula residents

The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning this morning for San Mateo County due to a severe thunderstorm in the area. The warning was lifted at 11:30 a.m. The warning was issued because the elements of a possible tornado producing storm were near Half Moon Bay.

Peninsula residents say they can't recall ever being under a tornado warning before, but that's exactly what happened for 30 minutes, starting at 11 a.m. Betty Altendorf, who has lived in Belmont for 38 years, said she was surprised. She was watching "ABC7 News at 11" when she got word. What did she do?

"You can't wait for it to happen," she said.

So she went grocery shopping. We caught up with her as she pushed a cart full of groceries out of Lunardi's Market on Alameda de las Pulgas.

A half-mile away, the 2100 students at Carlmont High School were on alert. Principal Raul Zamona received alerts from the district superintendent and from a portable radio controlled by the Belmont Police Dept. About 55 students attending classes in portable structures were quickly moved to the main building. The process took less than two minutes.

Students and teachers in classrooms with windows were told to step back as a precaution in case high winds blew out the glass. Computer-generated phone calls also went out to parents to advise them of the situation.

At nearby Merry Moppet Preschool, the children were in lockdown, awaiting an all-clear notice from the police. Lt. Pat Halleran at Belmont Police also sent out a tweet to nearly 500 residents who are on Twitter.

For a community where no one can recall having experienced a tornado warning before, an action plan was in place. Belmont Police and school district officials say it's all part of an emergency plan that could be triggered by a fire, a chemical release or any other type of life-threatening incident.

While Belmont had no trees fall over or flooding, or even a tornado spotting, that was not true in other parts of the Bay Area. The tornado warning encompassed the central part of San Mateo County, including the cities of San Mateo, Burlingame, Foster City, Belmont and San Carlos. ABC7 viewers sent in dramatic video of a water spout off Ocean Beach in San Francisco. Had it come ashore, it would have been classified a tornado. The video was submitted by Neorick to ABC7's uReport Powered by YouTube. You can watch that video here.

Another video, shot in Mountain View, showed what appeared to be a funnel cloud over the Fremont/Newark area in southern Alameda County.

ABC7 meteorologist Mike Nicco reports a tornado was spotted in the Santa Rosa area at 9:15 a.m. today as wind speeds reached 86 to 110 MPH. Nicco said these events were not forecast by the National Weather Service. He says the radar atop Mt. Umunhum is at 3,500 feet, which places the radar beam at 6,000 feet over San Francisco and 12,000 feet over Santa Rosa. That makes it difficult, Nicco says, to detect wind events at or close to sea level.

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