The 2019 Bakersfield Tornado was an extremely violent, long tracked, and devastating EF4 wedge tornado that struck Bakersfield, California, on June 15, 2019. The twister killed 47 people and injured 1138 others. It is the first violent tornado recorded on the west coast on the United States, the strongest on the west coast, as well as the deadliest. It holds these same records in California alone.
The tornado touched down at 3:43PM in Kern County, just east of the city of Taft. The twister began moving northeast over mostly rural, open areas, where little to no damage was recorded. The tornado was also small at first, reaching almost 500 yards wide.
As the tornado continued over these areas, it began to intensify and grow in size. The tornadoes first damage was to an area with several warehouses. Here, it flipped several vehicles, destroyed several sheds, as well as damaging a home and warehouse. Maximum damage here was EF2 damage. The tornado exited this area and continued moving northeast, still intensifying and growing in size. The tornado struck another area of warehouses, where, for the first time, EF3 damage was recorded. The tornado continued northeast after this.
The tornado was still growing at this point, almost reaching 1 mile wide. The National Weather Service in San Joaqiun Valley issued a Tornado Emergency for Bakersfield, the first ever in California and the West Coast of the US. The tornado crossed the I-5 interstate, where the first fatalities and injuries were recorded. Several cars on this interstate were not able to escape the twister due to its large size and speed. Along I-5, 5 people were killed and 7 others were hurt. The tornado continued northeast and struck another area of warehouses, producing more EF3 damage. The tornado was now just outside of Bakersfield at a peak width of 2100 yards.
The tornado entered the south side of Bakersfield at peak width, where it produced catastrophic, EF4 damage. Homes and businesses across southern Bakersfield were completely destroyed, with some swept away. Schools were badly damaged with 1 destroyed, and vehicles were tossed into the air. The tornado continued through Bakersfield producing devastating damage, before it exited the south side. The tornado maintained EF4 intensity as it exited, but began shrinking in size. The tornado then struck another neighborhood on the east side of Bakersfield, producing EF3-EF4 damage. It finally exited Bakersfield completely before beginning to rapidly weaken just Northeast of the town. The tornado finally dissipated East-Northeast of the town, after tracking 58 miles just under an hour.
Casualties and Damage
The tornado killed 47 people; 5 of them outside of Bakersfield, with the 42 others being in the town alone. At least 1138 people were injured, some of them critically. The tornado left catastrophic and devastating damage in Bakersfield, with homes, schools, and businesses completely destroyed, some of which were swept away. The rating of the tornado is disputed, as some surveyors argued there was EF5 damage in Bakersfield. However, the NWS in San Joaquin Valley said the homes swept away had anchor bolts, but they were somewhat weak. The cost of the damage was at least $2.1 billion, making it 3rd costliest in US history, as well as the costliest in California.