Tornadoes:Could They Touch Down in Laguna Niguel?

A Michigan native recalls what it's like to grow up in a place where tornadoes and twisters are all too common.

Growing up in the Midwest, you quickly learn to cope with two things: snow and the possibility of tornadoes.

As a kid we'd have to have a tornado kit at the ready, much like the earthquake preparedness kits we need in California. While spring would always be a welcome sight, it also reminded us that tornado season was not far behind. That saying about 'the quiet before the storm,' is very true. I recall that a good friend's home was completely demolished when I was growing up thanks to a tornado that seemed to come out of nowhere one May evening. The air was still, the silence was deafening, the destruction it left, heartbreaking.

Last week’s tornado that touched down in Dexter, Mich., just outside of Ann Arbor, reminded me of a tornado's wrath, something one seems to easily forget when living where the sun shines most of the time.

I know where Dexter is, it's a small, rural community, consisting mainly of farms and where everyone knows their neighbors.

I attended the University of Michigan and I would pass through Dexter on occasion, however never stopping to explore. Although, some friends used to go there to cow tip, yes, cow tip, a strange Midwestern pastime, but one that I never participated.

Last week, AccuWeather.com reported unusual warmth surging across the eastern two-thirds of the nation this March as being responsible for rare tornadoes that struck Dexter on March 15.

"May-like warmth has been gripping much of the Midwest and East this month with more than 1,000 record high temperatures falling this week alone in the U.S. So far this March, the average temperature in Detroit, Mich., is nearly 11 degrees above normal.

"On Thursday, temperatures soared well into the upper 70s across southern Michigan, more than 30 degrees above normal for the date. The warm, moist air in place on Thursday helped to fuel thunderstorms capable of spawning tornadoes."

The tornado damaged more than 100 homes with more than a dozen severely damaged. Scores of trees and power lines were toppled in the tornado's path.

Patti Vanriper, employee of La Fontaine Chevrolet in Dexter, Mich., described the scene as "horrifying," to AccuWeather.com.

"There are roofs torn off houses, and debris is blown all over. It's really scary," said Vanriper to AccuWeather.com's John Marsh late on Thursday.

 A tornado near Detroit is about as rare of an event as you can get in March, according to AccuWeather.com's Senior Meteorologist Henry Margusity.

Before the tornadoes struck southeastern Michigan on March 15, there have only been 10 other tornadoes in recorded history to touch down in southeastern Michigan before April 1. Tornado statistics for the region date to 1950.

The typical peak in tornado occurrence for Michigan is May into June when warmer, more humid air arrives farther north across the U.S.

Having been spoiled by California weather these past 20 years, I get cold when it dips below 65. I started wondering if we could ever witness a tornado touch down in Laguna Niguel. While California is not immune to tornadoes by any means, they are certainly not a common site.

But with wacky weather and Global Warming, what are the chances of a tornado touching down in California? I spoke to Western U.S. AccuWeather Meteorologist Ken Clark.

He stated that, "The frequency of tornadoes is so low in California (especially in Laguna Niguel) that statistically it probably means nothing. If there is a tornado or waterspout, more often than not, they are weak and short lived and there appears to be no evidence of that frequency changing."

So for now, we don’t seem to have to worry much about tornadoes in Laguna Niguel, however,  Spring officially arrives on March 20.

Meghan Evans, Meteorologist for AccuWeather.com contributed to this report.


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