Follow-up report to the Dec 12, 1996 tornado southeast of Oakdale, CA.....
I drove back to Oakdale this morning to search for damage from Thursday afternoon's freak tornado. The Dec 13, 1996 edition of The Modesto Bee indicated the tornado touched down near Warnerville Road southeast of Oakdale, which gave me a general idea of where to find the damage. Sure enough, about a mile east of the intersection of Warnerville Road and Route J14, I passed by the property of a dairy which sustained tornado damage. A 30-ft oak on the western boundary of the property was uprooted and pointed in a northeasterly direction. I then saw a south-facing garage which was pushed inward. Between the oak and the garage was the residence of the family which owns the dairy. Miraculously, there was no damage sustained to the house. Looking beyond the house, I could see a barn about 300 feet north of the garage which had some sheet metal torn off its roof.
I continued east on Warnerville Road until I approached another dairy one mile to the east. This dairy also had sheet metal torn off the roof of a barn. Twisted branches littered the north side of the road as well as the property of the dairy. I proceeded east on Warnerville Road into the Sierra Nevada foothills for about five miles, but did not see any tornado damage beyond the second dairy.
Damage at both properties was fairly minor. The worst damage I saw was to the garage, but fortunately for the owners of the property it didn't appear to be anything beyond repair. All of the damage I saw was widely scattered along a non-continuous, one-mile plus path. None of the damage in my opinion could have been ranked any higher than F0. The diffuse nature of the damage made it impossible for me to get an estimate of path width, but I didn't see any evidence to contradict my intial estimate that the funnel was 1/4 mi wide.
The Oakdale tornado developed in the warm sector of an approaching cold front, which is not where the majority of tornadoes develop in CA. Most tornadoes in CA occur after the front has passed. While we're on the topic of cold fronts, the cold front finally moved through Turlock early this morning. The southeast winds and muggy air which have been a fixture of Turlock's weather all week have been replaced by cooler, drier air and northwest winds. I managed to pick up .19 of an inch of rain with this morning's front, boosting the season total to 6.44 inches.