South county twister confirmed as tornado |

South county twister confirmed as tornado

Brian Hamilton and Jennifer Terman
Staff Writers
Submitted photo by Laura Seeman

Laura Seeman said she didn’t actually see a tornado touch down in southern Nevada County Monday night, but her Midwest upbringing — and the Tuesday morning aftermath — have her certain that’s what tore through the Lake of the Pines area.

That tornado was one of four funnel clouds confirmed to have touched down in the greater Sacramento area Monday, according to the National Weather Service.

Seeman said she was seated in a Higgins Corner beauty salon when she heard an all-too-familiar sound of a locomotive train, although the closest railroad was miles away in Colfax.

“I’d been through tornadoes in the Midwest, and it sounded like it,” said Seeman, a dietician and diabetes educator at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital who hails from South Dakota and went to college in Kansas.

“More than once, I’ve been in the basement or in a bathtub — or if you’re driving, in the ditch — during (a tornado).”

Knowing a tornado warning had been issued by the weather service, Seeman said she was sharing similar information with the beautician about to cut her hair when the winds picked up around 5:40 p.m. Monday.

“I was telling her what you would do,” Seeman said, noting most Californians aren’t as accustomed to taking precautions during tornado activity.

Once the winds calmed, Seeman snapped some photos of damage to trees nearby. In addition to power lines that had fallen onto the beauty salon’s roof, branches and whole trees had also been downed.

“The firefighters who came said they saw (the tornado),” Seeman said. “We were lucky. Seeing it today in daylight, thank goodness the trees landed the way they did.”

According to Stefanie Henry, a National Weather Service meteorologist, tornadoes spotted Monday were confirmed as either EF0s or EF1s on the Enhanced Fujita national tornado scale, meaning little to no damage.

The scale measures the damage caused by a tornado and is from a low of EF0 to a high of EF5.

“We typically get in Northern California EF1, 0, or 2,” Henry said. “It is very rare to get anything above an EF2.”

Henry said an EF0 level tornado was reported in Browns Valley, west of Grass Valley, near Spring Valley Road and Joines Road, in or near a rice field.

Other tornadoes were confirmed as EF1s in southern Yuba City and Elk Grove near Grantline Road, in addition to the EF1 tornado that Seeman experienced at Higgins Corner near Lake of the Pines.

Henry said the difference between a funnel cloud and a tornado is that tornadoes touch the ground.

“A funnel cloud is a lowering of spinning column air that doesn’t reach the ground, and a tornado is the only one that can cause debris on the ground because it is actually touching the ground,” Henry said.

Tuesday night’s forecast called for a chance of showers and thunderstorms capable of producing hail after 11 p.m., the weather service reports. New rainfall amounts were predicted to be between a tenth and a quarter of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.

The secondary wave of the broad Pacific storm system will generate another round of snowfall, the weather service reports. A total of three to seven inches of new snow could fall above 3,500-4,000 feet.

A 90 percent chance of showers is expected Wednesday with a high temperature near 49 degrees. New precipitation amounts between a quarter and a half of an inch are possible.

The chance for rain drops to 40 percent Wednesday night in advance of what the weather service predicts to be a mostly sunny Thursday morning.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email or call (530) 477-4239. To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email

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