The tornado near peak strength moving through southern Vista
November 7, 2022
11:25 am - 12:32 pm (PST)
11:25 am Pacific Standard Time
>250 mph (402 km/h)
$10.29 billion (2020 USD)
San Diego, Rancho Santa Fe, Encinitas, Carlsbad, Vista, Bonsall in San Diego County and La Cresta in Riverside County
Part of the Tornadoes of 2022 (SDT)
The 2022 San Diego-Carlsbad-Vista tornado was an extremely violent, deadly, and long-tracked as well as rare and historic tornado that occurred in San Diego and Riverside counties of Southern California. The tornado was an astronomically rare occurrence for the region, and its strength even topped almost all other tornadoes in the country, including those in the Great Plains and Dixie Alley. It set several records for its strength as well as damage and deaths, and became the center of thousands of scientific studies.
The tornado was the strongest in the historic November 7, 2022 tornado outbreak that affected most of Arizona and Southern Califonia, as well as other places in the desert southwest. This particular tornado touched down in the Miramar community of San Diego and moved northward, causing immense devastation in the central segment of its path, epecially in Vista. Most the staggering 1,559 fatalities occured in schools and cars, though many others were killed for not heeding the tornado emergency that was issued as Southern California had never experienced a violent tornado before. Additionally, many homes were not equipped with basements.
Throughout its path, 1,559 were killed, 4,938 were injured, and over $8 billion dollars in damage were done, making it on of the deadliest and the costliest tornadoes on record. A small, personal weather station in a business that got by the tornado at peak recorded wind speeds of 248mph before the building was completely destroyed, making it one of the strongest recorded tornadoes ever recorded. It was also caused the first ever tornado emergency to be issued in California.
The tornado first touched down in the Miramar Community of San Diego, near the edge of the runway at the Miramar Executive Airport, at around 11:30am PDT. Initially, the storm remained very small and weak as it tracked over an open field for nearly a mile. It then entered an industrial complex in Sorrento Valley, causing minor roof damage to several large storage facilities, warehouses, and office buildings. Remaining less than 30 yards wide, the tornado strengthened significantly, causing significant roof damage to numerous multi-story concrete buildings. A putting building at the Sorrento Valley Golf Center was completely destroyed by the tornado. Briefly reaching EF3 intensity, the storm ripped off the entire roof of the Singature Analytics San Diego office building, with several large air conditiong units being ripped off of the roof and carried for 150 yards. The tornado then weakend, dealing EF2 damage to 3 more large buildings before moving into a wooded area.
A small neighborhood of well-built, two-story in the wooded area sustained a direct hit from the now 50 yard wide tornado, with nearly 30 homes being damaged. Most homes that were hit had minor roof and siding damage, with several homes having large portions of their roof removed. Two homes had most of the second floor completely destroyedm with only interior walls left. A car was thrown into the first floor of one home, killing the driver. The tornado crossed Peñasquitos Creek, uprooting several small bushes and trees. The tornado then moved into the community of Caramel Mountain, now a violently rotating but thin tornado. The tornado hit one home, completely demolishing the top floor with only the bathroom walls left standing, and several other homes suffered similar damage. Striking the Higlands Village Condominiums, 21 buildings had their roofs completely removed at EF2 intensity, and 12 had all outside walls of the top floor collapse - imdicative of EF3 damage. The tornado then became violent, the first in California's history, as 3 buildings lost the entire top floor, and one even lost 2 exterior walls on lower floors. 2 people were killed here, and 25 others were injured.
The tornado continued north-northeast, impacting several two-story homes across the street from the condominiums. 5 homes in this area were leveled by the tornado, with winds in the storm being estimated near 185 mph at this time. The tornado then widened as it mvoed over a hill, reaching 360 yards wide. On the other side of the hill, the tornado directly impacted the Fairmont Gran Del Mar - a luxury hotel with several wings. Most of the roof along the central part of the building was torn off, adn exterior walls in the seperate wings were blown in. The Villas at Del Mar Golf Course was completely destroyed, and the clubhouse on site recieved EF1 damage. Crossing another hill, the tornado came down the hill and rapidly excelerated, causing EF3 damage to pet resort. The Del Mar Orchid World was completely destroyed at EF3 intensity. The tornado crossed the Ted Williams Freeway, throwing 4 cars off the road, killing 2. The tornado then moved into an open strip of land between two nieghborhoods, damaging homes on both sides. Several homes had moderate roof damage, with some having back walls facing the strip of land being blown in. Minor roof damage occurred at the Sycamore Ridge High School. The tornado then turned northwest, moving through a neighborhood of homes directly north of the high school. 31 homes sustained EF2 damage, 19 recieved EF3 damage, and 4 homes in the northeast corner of the neighborhood collapsed, having been impacted by winds estimated in the lew-end EF4 range. 2 people were killed in this area.
As the tornado crossed into another open field, it became large multi-vrotex stovepipe tornado. Homes along Blazing Star Lane sustained significant damage, including two well-built, 2-story homes that were completely destroyed except for 2 interior walls on the first floor. The tornado then moved into the Pacific Highlands House development area, where construction for a new housing project was about to begin. Large construction equipment, including a 15-ton bullzdozer, were blown around. Several cars were mangled. The tornado then moved into the Del Mar Country Club area, where 45 multi-million dollar, 3-story brick home homes were damaged. 6 homes near Dalia Drive collapsed, and 1 of those homes was completely destroyed with no first floor walls remaining. Winds here were estimated in the upper bounds of EF4, near 195 mph. Dozens of trees were uprooted or debarked, and a pond on the golf course was completely drained. More homes were impacted, with several more sustaining high-end EF4 damage. Most of these homes were inhabited by retired couples, leading to 12 deaths occurring in this region.
The tornado then moved into a field, completely destroying the barn where the Kailmar Farms Equestrian School was located, killing 5 horses. The parent supercell then began to cycle, causing the tornado to rapidly weaken and constrict. By the time it reached homes at the other end of the field, it was just 180 yards wide, compared to the previous 550 yards that it had been. A large wooden storage unit was flattened, and trees and telephone poles were snapped. Weakening below EF3 intensity, two small homes lost their whole roofs. The tornado then began to rope out, losing the condensation that formed its funnel. The tornado continued speeding north, causing roof damage to several homes and downing numerous trees. Strengthening a bit as moved into another field, a small and poorly built house was pushed several yards off its foundation. A larger home up the road lost its whole roof. Moving into Rancho Santa Fe, the tornado weakened singificantly again. Remaining less than 60 yards wide, the tornado snapped off tree limbs and blew shingles off of homes. Some homes lost small portions of the roof framing. The tornado then trekked through the Rancho Santa Fe communtiy plaza, causing consdierable roof damage to the North County Dispatch Joint Powers Authority building, Rancho Santa Fe Fire Portection offices, and the R. Roger Rowe School. Nets at the Rancho Santa Fe tennis club were ripped up, and 3 dozen trees at the location were blown down.
The tornado continued to produce minor damage. However, as it reached Vista de Fortuna street in northern Rancho Santa Fe, the tornado once again widened and strengthened. A large home had most of its roof removed, and two sheds at the site where swept away. A large palm tree was snapped at the base. 8 more homes sustained EF0 or EF1 damage, before the tornado rapidly intensified into an EF3 again. A small, poorly built wooden home was completely destroyed, and the car at the location was tossed 50 yards. Several more homes had their roofs blown off, and a well-built brick home lost 2 of its exterior walls. By the time the tornado reached a small row of homes near the Escondido Creek, the had once again become a 300 yard wide stovepipe. Several homes here sustained high-end EF3 damage, and water from the creek was sucked into the funnel. Hundreds of trees and bushes around the creek were uprooted. The tornado damaged another 30 homes, 6 of which lost their whole roof and at least 2 outside walls. Continuing to widen, the tornado moved through an open space, coming out the other end as a violent EF4. One home was completely destroyed, and 2 dozen others were damaged to some degree. Numerous homes sustained EF4 damage as the tornado moved up Calle Acervo, and many other homes sustained at least EF1 damage.
Now a half-mile wide wedge, the tornado rapidly strengthened into an EF5 tornado. Several well-built, 2-story homes were swept away completely. Trees were debarked and sheard to the ground. Many other homes nearby suffered significant damage. The football field of the La Costa Canyon High School sustained EF2 damage, as the turf was partially scoured and one goal post was snapped. The tennis courts on campus were also heavily damaged. The tornado constricted again as it continued to produce EF5 damage, completelyd estroying the Stagecoach Communtiy Park playground, tennis court, and gymanisum. Several 2-story apartment buildings were completely destroyed at EF4 intensity, and several were partialy swept away at EF5 strength. Numerous other homes were also swept away, and dozens others were damaged to some other extent. A CVS pharmacy was severely damaged, and a small, brick Taco Shop was flattened as the tornado moved through the La Costa town square. Hundreds of cars in the town square parking lot was tossed around, several of which were mangled and wrapped around the bases of light posts. The tornado began to weaken as it continued north, sweeping away 3 more houses and causing EF3+ damage to many others.
As the tornado moved north along Cadencia Street, it weakened to EF4 intensity, destroying numerous homes and apartments. The tornado then moved through a wooded area around Box Canyon, and at that point was 0.42 miles wide. Two large metal transmission towers were sheared to the ground, and dozens of small trees and shrubs were uprooted and the hillside was scoured. As the tornado came down the other side of the hillside, several more homes were demolished at EF4 damage and many others damaged. The La Costa Meadows Elementary School suffered a direct hit, suffering a total collapse of the roof and loss of several outside walls. The tornado continued to destroy dozens of home, slimming down to a quarter mile wide as it crossed Unicornia Street, and weakened to a low-end EF4 as several apartment buildings were severly damaged. The tornado then weakened to EF3 strength as it began to become a largewedge tornado again, causing significant damage to several dozens of homes.
As the tornado crossed Poinsettia Lane, it had widened to just over a half mile, and was damaging numerous homes. It then moved into an open area, where hundreds of shrubs and trees were uprooted, and several large transmission towers were knocked down. The edge of the funnel caused moderate roof damage to the Pacific Ridge School, and several rows of homes on the right side of the tornado were damaged at EF2 or EF3 intensity. By the time the tornado reached Palomar Airport Road, the tornado was now 0.85 miles wide, and dozens of buildings had been encompassed within the funnel. The tornado stengthened into an EF4 as it moved through the Bressi Ranch industrial park, causing the entire Optum RX building to collapse, killing nearly a dozen workers. Cars in the parking lot of the Cisco building were carried for up to 350 yards and large trees were partially debarked. The tornado continued doing severe damage to numerous officia ebuildings before corssing Faraday Avenue, where it reached 1.25 miles. The multi-story Hyatt Place San Diego-Vista/Carlsbad was severely damaged, with the upper floors being completely destroyed. The tornado once again reached EF5 intensity, as nearly a dozen homes were completely swept away. A Home Depot was severely damaged, with most of the structural integrity of the buildiung being compromised. The B&D Nutrintional Ingrediants warehouse was completely destroyed and partially swept aaway, and large steel pylons on the foundation were twisted and sheared to the ground. Several dozens of other homes were severly damaged or destroyed, including numerous that sustained EF5 damage. Dozens of other commerical buildings were also damaged, and 2 other warehouses had EF5 damage inflicted on them. The tornado, still enlarging, then passed through the Dawson Los Monos Canyon reserve, debarking and uprooting hundreds of trees as well other shrubbery. The tornado was so violent that water within the Agua Hedionda Creek was sucked out, causing the creek to run dry for several weeks following the tornado. Despite moving over the hilly reserve, the tornado was so wide the several blocks of homes on the right side of the canyon sustained EF2 and EF3 damage. Cars along South Melrose Drive - one of the busiest roads in all of San Diego County - were tossed off the road, killing numerous occupants. The Vista Fire Department Station 5 recieved EF2 damage, and nearby homes sutained similar damage.
Continuing north, the massive tornado continued to grow as it once again moved through a residential area. Dozens of homes that were impact by powerful vortices inside the core of the vortex were leveled and completely swept away, and many trees, including palm trees, were completely debarked and denuded. The water at a duck pond was sucked out, and the foundation of an outdoor public bathrrom was cracked and dragged about 3 feet, and plubming at the site was ripped out of the ground. Hundreds of homes towarss the sides of the tornado sustained varying degrees of damage, most of which fell at EF2 or EF3 level. Impacting a small busniess plaza, a large, concrete building that held several businesses, including an orthodontist, pizza parlor, and fitness camp, was completely destroyed and swept away.Amazingly, despit being located right next to the pizza parlor, a Catholic Preschool only suffered significant roof damage, and one exterior wall collapsed. All 130 children and staff inside survived without major injuries; much lower than the 19 deaths that occured in adjacent buildings. The tornado contunied devastating residential neighborhoods until it reached the Rancho Buena Vista High School. 40 of the classrooms on the campus were held in flimsy, unanchored portable units; all of which were completley obliterated. Turf on the football field was scoured, and both sides of bleachers were mangled and thrown some distance. Cars in the parking lot were lofted and torn apart, and several cars were rduced to their frams and wrapped around remaining structures and debris. The west side of the campus was completely destroyed, with numerous concrete wings that contained classrooms being completely destroyed. On the east side of campus, the gym roof collapsed, and severe roof and wall damaged occurred to the front office and performing arts center. Many other classrooms were severly damaged or destroyed, and the tennis courts and baseball fields were devastated as well, with large light poles in the baseball fields being sheared to the ground. Hundreds of homes around the school were damaged, including about 45 that were impacted by EF5 winds. At this point the tornado reached its maximum width of 1.35 miles.
The tornado continued to produce extreme damage as it started to reduce in size. Severe damage occurred in the Melrose Shopping Plaza, where a Dollar Tree, UPS delivery store, and several other businesses lost large sections of their back wall and roofs, and the roof of an Albertson's collapsed. Cars in the parking lot were rolled, crushed, and lofted, and large, steel light poles were snapped at the base. Homes behind the shopping plaza were swept away and scoured, and trees in the area were completely debarked and denuded, leaving only splintered stumps behind. A Mormon church was severely damaged, leaving only interior walls left standing, and 2 apartment complexes sustained direct hits. Several of the multi-story apartment buildings in both complexes were obliterated, leaving bare slabs behind. A FedEx delivery truck parked in front of one the buildings was torn down to it's frame, which was carried half a mile and wrapped around a telephone pole. Hundreds of other homes sustained damage ranging from EF0-EF3, and Catholic church lost its roof and an outside wall collapsed. Another shopping plaza was struck, where a McDonald's collapsed, a Walgreens sustained significant roof damage, and a Montessori Elementary School suffered a roof collapse. The Aegis Living Shadowridge retirement home was severely damaged, and saw its entire second floor blown apart, with all exterior walls on the first being destroyed.
The tornado briefly weakened below EF5 strength and constricted to 0.85 miles wide as it moved over a hillside. It clipped Madison Middle School, where several classrooms had minor roof and window damage, and many trees on campus were blown down. Nearby, Lake Elementary School sustained more significant damage, where several classrooms in portable unites lost their roofs and some walls, and the gymnasium, where dozens of staff and students were taking shelter, suffered a partial roof collapse. Greenhouses and plant nurseries Sun Valley Orchids were completely destroyed, and dozens of homes on the hillside sustained major damage, including several that were largely destroyed at EF4 intensity. Several other plant nurseries sustained direct hits, including Buena Creek nursery and Kent's Bromeliad Nursery, the latter of which was one of the largest in Vista. Dozens of homes nearby sustained significant roof and wall damage, and 2 churches next to each other lost the roofs and outside walls. As the tornado began to widen again, it regained EF5 strength as it completely swept away a well built home just south of the Breeze Hill elementary School. The tornado hit the school directly, completely destroying every classroom, as they were all held in shoddily built structures or portable units. The front offic and multi-purpose room both collapsed, causing the school to have the highest concentration of tornado related fatalities. Large floodlights at the Breeze Hill park were completley destroyed and mangled at the base, and newly built apartments behind the park were severaly damaged, with every building in the complex missing their second and third floors. A CVS had its roof collapse, and sveral restauraunts in a nearby plaza sustained similar EF3 damage. 2 other apartment complexes were hit as well, causing large areas of EF5 damage as dozens of the apartment buildings, some of which were concrete and 3 stories tall, were completely destroyed with no walls left standing. A car license plate registered to one of the parking spaces in the Avalon Apartment Complex was found covered in mud and mangled in Fallbrook, meaning that it had remained within the tornado for the full 15 miles until the tornado reached Fallbrook.
The tornado remained at EF5 intensity as it passed over Breeze Hill, hitting another apartment complex as well as the Superior Court North County Division, Vista Community Clinic Offices, and California Highway Patrol office. Intense 6-8 inch deep ground scouring occurred at an open field adjacent to the County Court House. The courthouse itself - which was a multi-story, concrete reinforced steel building, sustained extreme structural deformation, and the top 2 floors and roof were completely leveled. Cars in the parking lot were mangled beyond recognition, and dozens of tall floodlights in the parking lot were sheared off at their base and carried for some distance before being mangled. Acrossd the street, cars in the parking lot of the Vista Community Clinic and California Highway patrol were tossed around, and the roofs of both buildings were torn off. The highway patrol building also suffered a collapse of its south facing wall, and a 75 foot, steel telecommunications tower was blown down. Halfway down the hill, the Vista Detention Center had its entire concrete roof collapse, killing dozens of inmates and police officers, and trapping dozens more. A nearby 2-story LA Fitness gym collapsed completely, and the roof of Carl's Jr. was severly damaged. 16 other businesses in the area were damaged, along with another Apartment Complex that saw 2 buildings sutain EF4 damage, including a Starbucks, Chevron, and FedEx Print and Ship center.
Crossing the California State Route 78, the tornado had slimmed down further into a half mile wide cone tornado. Nearly 2 dozen cars on the highway were impacted by the tornado, and several of them at the core of the tornado were mangled and thrown considerable distances. The Vista Inn collapsed, and nearby homes were completely leveled. The tornado began to speed up at this time, showing how intense it was as it still swept away numerous homes along the path despite spending little time over the structures. The Tesoro New Homes complex sustained a direct hit, and 38 of the 56 homes there sustained EF5 damage. As the tornado continued to reduce in size, it became incrasingly violent, and had some of the strongest rotation and upwards drafts recorded in any tornado. The tornado then clipped the Vista Innovation and Design Acadmy Middle School (VIDA), causing moderate roof damage to the main, 9-winged building. The front office and gymansium, which were more to the left of the campus, sustained more severe roof damage, with the west facing wall of the gym collapsing. 10 portable classrooms on the far west end of the school were completely obliterated. As it crossed Olive Avenue, it briefly weakened to an EF4 as it reached a minimum size of 0.34 miles wide. As it accelerated north-eastward at nearly 60 miles per hour, dozens of homes in the core of the tornado were severely damaged at mid to high-end EF4 intensity. Several cars were lifted into the air and carried up to 2 miles, and trees and telephones continued to be shredded. The tornado was moving through such a densely populated area that, at one point, up to 5 tons of debris was circulating through the tornadic circulation.
Once again briefly weakening to an EF4, the tornado swiftly moved through neighborhoods along highland drive, completely sweeping away numerous poorly built homes, and completely destroying several well-built homes as well. A home enar the intersection of Highland Drive and Rose Avenue was completely swept away, and it was well-buolt as well, warratning an EF5 rating. The tornado rapidly intensified back into a powerful EF5 as it tore into a neighborhood of 2 dozen homes along Pohl Plaza and Loma Alta Terrace. The damage in this area was the most intense anywhere along the tornado's path - only 3 of the homes in this area did not sustain EF5 damage. A row of well-built, strongly anchored homes along the southern portion of Pohl Plaza were not only swept cleanly away, but the foundations were cracked and pulled apart as well, though debris from other homes ended up covering most of the swept away foundations. A car in one of the homes was mangled and shredded, with the frame being carried for almost 6 miles. Trees in the area were completely debarked and shredded down to the stump, and up to 12 inches of ground scoruing occurred in the yards of the homes. Aspahlt was torn from both Pohl Plaza and Loma Alta Terrace, and many residents who were killed inside their homes had to be identified through dental records due to the extreme physical trauma they experienced. The most extreme damage was the in-ground swimming pool of one home had all of its water sucked out, and then the concrete frame of the pool was pulled nearly 10 inches out of the ground before being cracked in several places.
Directly behind Pohl Plaza was a small, open field was directly struck by the tornado, which scoured the top 4-6 inches of soil, with a small trench 8-10 inches deep being dug from a sub-vortice. The tornado then made a direct strike on the Maryland Elementary School while nearly 350 staff and students were taking cover. Chunks of asphalt from the basketball court were stripped off and carried several dozen yards, and the front office and gym were completely collapsed and partially swept away. The two main classroom buildings suffered roof and wall collapse, and severe debris impact damage as well. A school bus in the parking lot was lifted 2 miles into the parent supercell, reduced to a steel frame, and dropped 2 miles away in Rancho Guajome Park. A 70 yard strip of asphalt was scoured from North Avenue as the tornado conintued north into a small industrial area. Half of the One Source warehouse and office building was obliterated and swept away, whil the other half of the building sustained major roof and wall damage. The roof of the Instructional Media Center was blown off, and a large storage facility sustained heavy damage. Just north of the One Source site, the Preserve at Melrose condominium complex sustained extreme damage. 4 3 story, concrete buildings completely collapsed, and the remaning 6 buildings and front office received devastating roof and exterior wall damage, with 2 of those buildings completely losing their top floor.
Moving forwards, the tornado directly crossed over the intersection of West Bobier drive and North Melrose Drive, where an Arco gas station was completely destroyed with most of the building being destroyed and swept away, except for the walk-in cooler, where 18 people survived without injury. 18 cars were at the intersection when the tornado struck, and over half were picked up, mangled, and hurled into a nearby open field. 19 people were killed at this location. The tornado then moved into the field, with its sub-verticies causing 2-3 inches of ground scouring. Buildings on the edges of the funnel sustained EF0-EF2 damage, with several homes losing large portions or all of their roof. The Vista Sports Park facility received a direct hit, and all 3 baseball dugouts were swept away. The central gymansium collapsed, and the playground was mangled. Turf from the baseball, soccer, and football fields were scoured, and nearby homes received varying degress of roof and wall damage, 2 of which collapsed. The tornado then weakened below EF5 intensity as it passed just 300 yards west of Guajome Park Academy. The western half of the Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum was struck, causing many of the century old wooden buildings as well as trailer units on the site to be completely destroyed. Cul de sacs along Sunmeadow Road, Sunlight Court, and Richard Court were hit as well, where several homes were completely destroyed and partially swept away at very high-end EF4 intensity.
Sundance Organics grocery store had its roof collapse as the tornado took a turn towards the northeast as it crossed North Santa Fe Avenue. The campus of North Coast Church suffered a direct hit, where the youth auditorium completely collapsed at high-end EF4 intensity, and the youth small group buildings just north of auditorium were swept away, though they were poorly built. Other large buildings on campus had significant roof damage, and the southern wall of the main auditorium collapsed. Behind the church, shoddily built wooden structures at the Kathy Show Equipment plot were completely blown away as the tornado began to substantially weaken. Nearby homes and businesses sustained significant roof and wall damage, and the Plug Connections plant nursery was completely destroyed, as the facility consisted of 14 tent-like structures. Other nearby homes and businesses, many of which were also poorly built, saw severe damage as well. Weakening to a mid-ranged EF3, the tornado entered another residential area. 39 homes were severely damaged, and over 100 others int he area sustained lesser degrees of damage. Shooting straight northward, the tornado began to significantly decrease in size as it moved into hilly agricultural areas. A very large poultry and plant farm, which like many others in the area was held in weak, greenhouse/tent-like structure, sustained significant damage, and the accompanying garages, sheds, and trailer offices were completely destroyed. Another farmhouse lost most of its roof and a few seond floor exterior walls as the tornado constricted to just 350 yards wide and weakened to EF2 strength.
As the storm continued northwards, it caused moderate damage to several crop fields, destroyed outhouses, and damaged other structures. A large, 3-story house lost its whole roof and 2 extrior walls on the top floor, and other smaller homes nearby also sustained significant roof damage. Dozens of trees in a small wooded area were snapped, and another farm saw damage to its lemon and avocado crops. The tornado then moved into the outskirts of the Fallbrook/Winterwarm area, impacting dozens of homes. Hundreds of small trees were snapped or uprooted, and many homes lost their roofs. Dozens of outbuildings, garages, and sheds were completely destroyed as the tornado strengthened slightly to a high-end EF2, and several poorly-built homes began to see significant exterior wall damage as well. The tornado began to significantly widen once again, becoming 0.86 miles wide 2 miles southwest of Winterwarm, though it was still an EF2. Nearly 4 dozen more homes sustained damage, including 3 mobile homes that were completely destroyed. One of these was a single-wide mobile unit housing a family of migrant workers that was thrown into a small wooded area behind it, killing all but 1 of the people inside. A large, wood-frame veterinary hospital lost a significant portion of its roof, and part of an exterior wall collapsed. The Sunlet Plant Nursery sustained significant damage to its greenhouses, and flying glass killed 2 people at the site. The supercell then began to cycle once again, causing the tornado the weaken substantially, though it still stayed on the ground.
At just over a quarter mile wide, the tornado weakened to an EF1 as it moved over a large hill, cuasing severe damage to hundreds of trees. At this point, the circulation of the tornado was very weak but very large at the same time, harboring 90mph winds across a half mile wide diameter. Several homes on top of the hill lost portions of their roofs, and a mobile home was overturned. Just a mile west of Fallbrook, the tornado moved over an open hillside. As the rotation weakened even further, some heavier debris that had been lofted high into the storm structure from Encinitas and Vista began to be deposited. An advanced placement history textbook weighing 8
pounds and registered to Rancho Buena Vista High School was found badly battered in downtown Fallbrook, after being carried more then 14 miles. Many other debris was found in Fallbrook and surrounding areas. The tornado weakened further to just an EF0 as it crossed the Santa Margarita River, uprotting serveral small shrubs in the area and snapping limbs off of trees. Several homes lost shingles and had windows blown out in a small residential pocket on De Luz Road, and several outbuildings were badly damaged as well. Dozens of large trees sustained major limb damage at the Emerald Forest Bird Gardens, and several other small trees were downed, killing 3 exotic birds. Starting to restrengthen as the supercell's rotation reorganized, 2 mobile homes were badly damaged. The tornado then moved into the unincorporated De Luz Heights community, destroying several mobile homes and blowing the roofs off of several homes. The tornado then restrengthened into a weak EF3 as a poorly built garage was swept off it sfoundation and a nearby home lost its roof and 2 exterior walls collapsed. At this point, a large portion of the mesocyclone of the supercell had condensed into the funnel, and the tornado approached a width of 1 mile once again. Dozens of homes sutained significant roof damage, and an RV was completely destroyed.
Growing to just under a mile wide, the tornado moved over another hill. This hill was much more wooded then the surrounding area, and hundreds of trees were snapped or uprooted by the tornado. A wooden ranger station on the hill was completley destroyed and scattered into the trees, and a pickup truck at the site was carried for 90 yards. The tornad reached 0.95 miles of width as it crossed De Luz Murrieta Road, throwing a pickup truck with 2 occupants of the road into a field, killing both. A metal-framed storage building on the side of the road was destroyed and swept away at high-end EF3 intensity, and a nearby mobile home lost its roof. To the north, the Moon Valley Nurseries Farm sustained high-end EF2 damage, as the greenhouse was completely destroyed and the ranchouse lost its roof. The tornado remained an EF3 as it moved through an open field, causing light ground scouring and uprooting numerous trees and shrubs. An unoccupied double-wide mobile home was leveled, and an SUV at the location was thrown 150 yards. Thinning down to 0.6 miles wide, the tornado swept away a very poorly built home along Avocado Mesa Road, and a run down wooden storage building behind it was obliterated, with the mold and termite ridden wood being splintered and thrown aloft into the upper level circulation of the supercell.
The tornado, now at 0.3 miles wide, moved ito the community of La Cresta, and began to impact dozens of homes. Most of these home swere well-built, sustaining significant roof damage, with a few losing their whole roof as well as exterior walls. Trees and telephone poles were snapped, and cars were scattered. The tornado moved through the expensive part of the community, impacting several million dollar homes. One home lost its entire roof and all exterior walls on the top floor, with all of the south facing walls on the bottom 2 floors being blown in as well. Outbuildings and sheds were obliterated, and a trailer office building was picked up and mangled before slamming into a nearby home. The wood-framed Oakmont Ranch office building lost its entire roof, with several exterior walls collapsing as well. A tractor trailer holding 3 horses was lofted and carried for 40 yards before being ripped apart, killing the horses. Another large homes sustained mid-ranged EF3 damage before the tornado weakened below EF3 strength. By the time it weakened to EF2 strength, it was still 0.36 miles wide, though the circulation was beginning to lift from the ground. Dozens of other homes sustained roof and wall damage, with about 15 or so losing their whole rood. Mobile homes and trailers were completely destroyed, and hundreds of trees were snapped or uprooted. The storm then weakened to an EF1, slightly damagin several more buildings before lifting just before Pso Montana road, 1.75 miles southwest of Wildomar, where it was 400 yards wide.
The tornado was on thr ground for 51.48 miles and for 1 hour and 7 minutes, and moved through San Diego and Orange counties, and disippated just after entering Riverside county. The supercell that produced the tornado als produced the EF3 that struck Tijuana as well as a brief EF1 in Chula Vista, and after prodcuing the EF5 tornado it dropped an EF2 that killed several people in Moreno Valley. Though the supercell did not produce any tornadoes after that, it continued north for another hour. Debris from when the tornado moved through Encinitas and Vista was lofted so high into the supercell that some debris was carried for quite a distance. While heavier debris, like the aforementioned textbook, fell in communites close to Vista, like Fallbrook, lighter debris was carried much further. Notable instaces include a traffic ticket from the Superior Court North County Division that was found 55 miles away in Beaumont, a CVS receipt from the CVS just north of Rancho Buena Vista High School along South Melrose Drive and Shadowridge Road that was found 65 miles away in San Bernardino, and a report card from a La Costa Canyon High School student who lived in the neighborhood that sustained EF5 damage across the street from the school that was found in Lake Havasu City - a whopping 192 miles away. The report card in question had been lofted into the very upper level circulation of the supercell, which was then transferred into the upper level circulation of a second supercell that developed over the San Bernardino mountains, which carried the report card all the way to the California-Arizona border, where it was found by a McDonald's employee.
In the immediate aftermath, California governor Gavin Newsom issued a state of emergency for San Diego and Orange counties in California, particuarily for the communities hit by the tornado. The industrial parks in Sorrento Valley and Bressi Ranch that were hit hard by the tornado suffered severe damage, as well as the Vista Unified School District, leading to a spike of unemployment in those communities. While other strong tornadoes had hit downtown areas of cities, such as the Moore, Oklahoma tornadoes of 2013 and 1999, the Joplin, Missouri tornado in 2011 and the Tuscaloosa, Alabama tornado in 2011, the Vista tornado was the first one to continuously track over densely populated, urban areas in a metropolitan area with over 3 million residents, which is why the death and damage toll was staggeringly high.
The San Diego branch of American Red Cross reported that nearly 35% of Vista had been damaged, with 5% of the city sustaining EF2 or higher damage. Addtionally, as mentioned earlier, the tornado caused masssive losses to the Vista Unified School District, as the Rancho Buena Vista High School, Breeze Hill Elementary School, Vista Innovation & Design Academy, and Maryland Elementary School campuses were largely destroyed by EF5 winds, the Lake Elementary School campus was significantly damaged at EF3 strength, and the Madison Middle School campus sustained light damage by the edge of the tornado. While not directly impacted by the tornado, the tornado had a powerful rear flank downdraft (RFD) which was feeding the tornado from the east, and which directly struck Guajome Park Academcy, downing dozens of trees across campus, shattering a few windows, and depositing debris from the tornado.
The tornado was one of the deadliest on record in the United States, as well as worldwide. A case report showed that upwards of 52% of fatalities occurred at schools, with the highest numbers being 256 killed at Rancho Buena Vista High School, 311 at Breeze Hill Elementary School, and 193 at Maryland Middle School. Another large source of fatalities were those that occurred in vehicles. The tornado crossed Melrose Drive - which is one of the busiest non-highway roads in San Diego county - at several locations, tossing cars off the road, and in some cases, carrying them long distances and mangling them. The tornado also crossed Ronald Packard Parkway, or California State Route 78, causing EF5 damage to building surrounding the highway and scouring pavement off, mangling 11 cars that got caught in the tornado at that location. Of the 14 people in the 11 cars, 10 were killed. Amazingly, the 4 people who were not killed were a family of 4 whose minivan was kept from being sucked into the tornado by a large air conditiong unit from the nearby LA Fitness Building that landed on the hood of the car, keeping it anchored.
At the time of disippation, the tornado was the both the deadliest tornado as well as costliest in not only the United States, but also worldwide. The tornado surpassed the deatholl of the Daulatpur–Saturia, Bangladesh tornado in 1989 by 259, and shattered the Joplin tornado's old record of $3.1 billion for being the costliest tornado on record.
In terms of strength, the tornado was the first violent tornado to occur west of the Rocky Mountains, though 6 other tornadoes would also break this landmark later in the day. The tornado was also the first EF5 tornado to occur west of the Rocky Mountains, though, once again, this record would also be met by 2 other tornadoes that day. However, this tornado was the strongest out of the 3, as an office weather station would record a 248mph gust before being knocked out of commission, making it stronger than many other tornadoes of its rating. Damage from the tornado, especially its pavement scouring and ability to copletely destroy large and well-built, non-residential buildings supports the idea that the tornado may have exceeded 260mph winds, making it in the top 10% of F5 or EF5 tornadoes. In a few locations, especially around Pohl Plaza, damage was so extreme that damage surveyors had trouble making out what damage indicators existed in the area.
At 1.33 miles wide at peak, the tornado was by far the widest tornado on record in Californian history, though its record would be eclipsed just 4 hours later by an EF5 in Imperial County. The tornado, however, tracked for nearly 52 miles, making it the longest tracked tornado in California that day, as well as in Californian history.
The following gallery shows the areas of the tornado's path that were marked with EF5 damage indicators.