Rescues, Crashes and a Tornado as 'Pineapple Express' Hits California – NBCNews.com

The storm system dubbed a ‘Pineapple Express’ swept through California Friday and brought rain that triggered mudslides and prompted river rescues, and winds that knocked out power — even spawning a tornado that struck in south Los Angeles.

The National Weather Service said a small EF0 tornado touched down at about 9:20 a.m. Friday, ripping parts of rooftops from buildings as the storms battered southern California. The tornado was captured on video.

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Nearly two inches of rain fell in Beverly Hills and the California Highway Patrol said Los Angeles County saw more than three times more crashes than normal between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m.

For some of the hardest-hit parts of the state, the task remained one of cleaning up as the showers moved on to central California.

In Camarillo, north of Los Angeles, 13 homes were damaged in a rockslide, and 10 of those were so battered that they have been “red tagged”, meaning they are uninhabitable, the Ventura County Fire Department said. Eight people also had to be rescued from cars when land gave way and swamped a road. One of them was hospitalized.

The roof of a business collapsed in Simi Valley. Los Angeles Fire Department rescuers pulled a man and his wife from the rain-swollen Los Angeles River, NBC Los Angeles reported.

There was a rash of car crashes as the storm swept through. The California Highway Patrol said there were 147 crashes in Los Angeles County between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m., compared to just over 40 on the same day a week ago.

The weather system, known as the Pineapple Express, hammered the north and center of the state with hurricane force winds and up to 10 inches of rain on Thursday. The storm caused flight cancellations and left hundreds of thousands of people in the dark. At least two deaths were also reported in Oregon.

Gallery: Storm of the Decade in California

By Friday afternoon, power was restored to nearly all of the 483,000 customers who lost electricity in the San Francisco area and downstate toward Santa Barbara, Pacific Gas & Electric said, although there were still 2,460 outages in the Bay Area.

There were accidents on flooded roads, and several trees crunched cars. Interstate 5, California’s critical north-south thruway, was closed by flooding in the northern town of Weed. In Marin County, heavy rains washed out a portion of state Route 1.

The Los Angeles Department of Public Works reported that it had captured 1 billion gallons of rain Friday during the storm that has drenched the West, most notably in drought-hit California. Officials said those totals were enough to supply more than 30,000 people for a year. Meteorologists have cautioned that it would take several more soaking rain storms to put a dent in the state’s historic drought.

The Pineapple Express is an atmospheric river of sorts that streams moisture from the Pacific tropics toward the West Coast. Wind gusts of up to 147 mph were reported Thursday.

In Oregon, the winds proved deadly. A falling tree killed a homeless man who was sleeping on a trail, and a teenage boy died after a large tree fell on the vehicle in which he was riding, causing it to swerve and hit another tree.

In western Washington, strong winds knocked out power to more than 150,000 customers Thursday. A tree fell onto a casino’s 18,000-gallon propane tank and started a large fire roughly 30 feet from the building in Olympia, Washington.

The Associated Press and NBC News’ Andrew Blankstein, Phil Helsel, F. Brinley Bruton, M. Alex Johnson and Erin McClam contributed to this report.

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First published December 12 2014, 2:10 AM

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