SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — In 2022, the Sacramento region had occurrences of a tornado, funnel cloud, and dust devils on separate occasions. In December, the NWS issued a special weather statement that included a possible threat of landspout in Northern California.
What are the differences between all these types of weather California saw this year? We break it down below.
A funnel cloud is a rotating column of air that extends from the base of a large cloud without making contact with the ground, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
In April 2022, a funnel cloud was filmed in Isleton in Sacramento County, which was confirmed by experts as an EF-U Tornado. The U in EF-U stands for the unknown on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, meaning it’s not known how strong it was.
The funnel cloud was spotted hours after people in San Joaquin, Calaveras, and Amador counties got a separate tornado warning.
According to the NOAA, a landspout is a tornado that doesn’t form from an organized storm-scale rotation and is the land-based equivalent of waterspouts. Landspouts are usually observed beneath the commission for basic systems (CBs) or towering cumulus clouds — often as no more than a dust whirl, NOAA said.
Recently, the NWS issued a special weather statement on Dec. 4 for the Northern California towns of Corning, Los Molinos, and Gerber. The special weather statement was issued for a possible landspout, a form of a tornado, and hail. At the time of the special weather statement, the NWS recommended that residents in those towns seek shelter in a sturdy structure in case of a landspout and hail.
A dust devil is a small, rapidly rotating wind that is made visible by the dust, dirt, or debris it picks up, NOAA said. It’s also known as a whirlwind and it develops best on clear, dry, and hot afternoons.
In May 2022, a “strong dust devil” was spotted near Elk Grove in Sacramento County. On May 10, viewers sent FOX40 videos of hail and strong winds, including a clip of what the NWS confirmed was a dust devil.
The NWS later determined that the dust devil didn’t cause any damage.
Tornadoes aren’t a regular occurrence in California, but they can happen.
According to the National Weather Service, California averages 11 tornadoes per year. They typically occur in the spring or fall, most commonly in the northern half of the Central Valley.
That area spans north of Modesto all the way to Redding, which includes the greater Sacramento region, Chico, and other cities in Central California.
According to NOAA, a tornado is a violently rotating column of air that has circulation reaching the ground. It nearly always starts as a funnel cloud and may be accompanied by a loud roaring noise. On a local scale, it’s the most destructive of all atmospheric phenomena.
Sacramento County had an occurrence of a tornado that touched down near Highway 99 north of Galt on Nov. 8, 2022.
The tornado had winds of 70 miles per hour and reportedly caused minor damage a few miles away from Galt, the NWS said. The damage that occurred was minor with a barn’s tin roof being blown off and power lines being affected. Law enforcement in the area said the windows of a bus were also blown out.