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Tornados Tear Through Fallbrook, Rainbow and Temecula: February 19, 2005

Last updated March 1, 2005

Residents of neighborhoods in Fallbrook, Rainbow and southwest Temecula were surprised Saturday morning by tornados which ripped quickly through their properties, felling trees, fences and ripping a few roof tiles off homes in its wake. No injuries were reported.

"There is significant damage all along our street, and in the surrounding area," said Lisa King, a resident of Classic Way in Temecula's Rainbow Canyon Villages neighborhood. "Trees blew over, fences are down, roof tiles flew!"

"First we heard thunder, then there was a roar, and then a loud snap." said Temecula resident William Michaels. The loud snap was a 60 foot pine tree uprooted in their backyard. It fell into a neighbors yard, taking part of a fence with it. A concrete walkway in his backyard was also damaged by the fallen tree. Loose acrylic windows on his patio blew out as well.

Damage from the tornados in the Rainbow Canyon Villages neighborhood in southwest Temecula was relatively minor, but was still estimated in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. The affected area is located south of Highway 79 South and west of Pechanga Parkway.

DeeDee Michaels, William's husband, commented ironically on the loss of their pine tree. "We had just called a couple of weeks ago to have that pine tree removed," she said, looking at the exposed root ball of the fallen pine tree. "The tree service was too busy."

Downed trees temporarily blocked Masters Drive and Clubhouse Drive in the Rainbow Canyon neighborhood. Tiles were missing from roofs along Masters Drive and Classic Way. At Masters Drive and Clubhouse Drive, a felled fence revealed where a permanent backyard barbecue had been moved a few feet by the tornado.

At the end of Masters Drive, homeowner and avid weather-watcher Kenny Blair commented on the twister. "I didn't see any defined funnel cloud," he said. His wife had urged him to move away from the windows of his house when the tornado hit. "It just looked like a mass of rain and debris flying, swirling around."

Blair said that it only took about 15 seconds after the thunder for the tornado to arrive. The duration or the twister was approximately another 30 seconds, he said. The tornado had come and gone within a minute's time.

Another neighbor had been having coffee in his backyard when the tornado arrived. It picked up pieces of his wooden fence and hurled it at him and his wife. They barely had time to get inside their house before the fence brushed by them.

Nearly all the wooden fences in the Rainbow Canyon neighborhood were down or damaged in the tornado's wake.

The City of Temecula public works department moved to cut up the two fallen eucalyptus trees blocking roads. Grant Yates, assistant to the city manager, supervised the relief effort. The sound of chainsaws could be heard throughout the neighborhood in the afternoon hours Saturday as dozens of fallen trees were cut up and cleared.

The nearby Temecula Creek Golf Course reportedly lost over a hundred trees, many of them oak trees in excess of 200 years old. "The loss of many of these [oak] trees was undoubtedly the most serious and lasting of all the damage [from the tornado]," lamented Ed Healy, who was on the golf course Sunday morning. "Additionally, many of these lost treasures were essential characteristics of the holes on which they were located."

The tornados began in the Fallbrook area, one felling trees in neighborhoods there and knocking down power lines near White Horse Lane and Olive Hill Road around 9:25am.

Soon afterward, a tornado tore through the Rainbow area. Tiles were ripped from the roof of the Fallbrook Seventh-day Adventist Church on Rainbow Valley Boulevard, adjacent to Old Hwy 395. Palm tree crowns were seen blowing northbound above I-15, at speeds equal to or greater than that of freeway traffic. Church members reported their vehicles being partially lifted off the ground and then slammed back down as they were driving. One church member watched a large truck overturn on southbound I-15, while others saw a large shed fly across the freeway.

Trees were toppled or split on the church grounds in Rainbow, at a nursery located north of the church, and at Rainbow Service, a local landmark.

The storm then progressed through the Rainbow gap, toppling some small water towers and a metal fence, damaging a car, then came down into the Rainbow Canyon Villages area of Temecula at about 9:40am, where it spawned another tornado that caused the most damage of the series. The funnel cloud was then spotted to the north of the Redhawk area at 9:45am. Shortly afterward, the funnel cloud was seen over Glen Oaks in the Temecula Valley wine country. Then the disturbance expended the rest of its energy in the Hemet area, where a wall of rain and quarter inch hail was reported around 10:00am.

Photos to the right detail some of the damage in Fallbrook, Rainbow and Temecula.

The tornado that hit Temecula was classified as F1 on the Fujita-Pearson tornado intensity scale by Jim Purpura, meteorologist-in-charge at the National Weather Service, San Diego, who was on the scene in southwest Temecula a couple of hours after the tornado hit. He has seen tornado aftermath in Oklahoma while working for the National Weather Service there, and estimated the winds of Saturday's tornado at 80 to 90 mph based on the damage.

F1 tornados are capable of moderate damage and account for approximately 11% of all tornados in the United States. The Fujita-Pearson tornado intensity scale is similar to the Saffir-Simpson scale used to categorize hurricane damage potential.

The wet earth from recent rains made the fallen trees susceptible to being blown over by the tornado, Purpura said. No glass windows were blown out or he would have classified the tornado as a stronger F2 on the tornado scale.

WeatherCurrents' Temecula station, only about a mile and half away, recorded 27 mph wind gusts during the event. The disturbance appears to have passed much closer to WeatherCurrents' Fallbrook station, which recorded 52 mph wind gusts before a power outage associated with the twister there took it offline for about an hour.

Saturday's rare tornado was the second in southwestern Riverside County this year. The previous one hit southeastern Hemet on January 9th.

Online news articles related to the tornado:

WeatherCurrents' news stories rely on reports from the community. Report tornado damage. Submit a tornado-related picture.

See a list of all past weather happenings in your area on the Features page.

Emailed reports by Jim Purpura, Marjie Preston, Tom Chester, Glen Nash, Lisa King, Ed Healy and Curtis Brownlow contributed to this story. The National Weather Service, San Diego office and The Californian also contributed to this story.

Photos are courtesy of Marjie Preston, Robert Gonsett, Ed Healy, NWS San Diego and WeatherCurrents.

Temecula
Temecula Creek Golf Course
Rainbow
Fallbrook

The Temecula weather pages are a service of WeatherCurrents. Temecula, California is located in the Temecula Valley, in southwestern Riverside County, along the Interstate 15 highway. The Temecula Valley's rolling hills are home to the Temecula wine country, vineyards, golf courses, a casino resort, and Old Town Temecula.
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