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Do you know what to do if a tornado were to hit Santa Barbara County?

tornado safety
National Weather Service

MONTECITO, Calif. - Many people are talking about the alert that went out about the tornado warning in Southeastern Santa Barbara County Wednesday night. 

It had a lot of people wondering what to do in the event of a tornado actually happening here.

Community members who have spent time in the Midwest and South said they knew exactly what to do when they saw the alert come through, but for many native Californians, the directive to seek shelter was met with panic and confusion.

“I was very surprised that there was a tornado in our area,” said Bonnie Hill of Montecito. 

A Christmas Tornado Warning caught a lot of locals off guard.

“Definitely confused, my wife was scared and confused,” said Ryan Siemens, Montecito. 

“First I thought it was kind of an overreaction or a put on,” said Rick Porter, Montecito. 

“Never been issued a tornado warning, but with global climate change, there’s a first for everything,” said Robert Teufel, Montecito. 

The National Weather Service says between 9:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, a rotating storm cell over the Santa Barbara Channel moved toward Montecito.

45 mph winds were reported, but the storm weakened and the warning was called off shortly after it was issued.

“I was blown away because my son, who is here visiting, had asked me just the night before if there were tornados here and I said no, we’ve never had one,” said Julie Sanderlin, Montecito. 

Experts say this is rare for our area and when it does happen it’s a typically a waterspout from the coast and generally weak as far as tornadoes go.

“It’s not a Midwestern tornado,” said Porter. “Maybe there are some religious or spiritual implications that I don’t quite understand yet, so happy holidays,” he adds. 

Since we don't have much experience with this type of severe weather, alerts to seek shelter prompted almost as much confusion as the storm itself.

Many people who received the alert in Southeastern Santa Barbara County said they didn’t know what to do.

“Bathtub or basement? We have neither in our house, so I really don’t know,” said Siemens. 

According to NWS if a tornado hits, avoid windows and take cover in a closet or bathroom on the lowest level. You want to put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Since most injuries are associated with flying debris, remember to protect your head with a helmet and get under a heavy table or mattress.

If you're driving when a warning is issued, do not seek shelter under an overpass. If you can't find a safe place to be, get down low in your car and cover your head or find a low-lying ditch.

Similar to other emergencies, have a go-pack ready with a flashlight, water, non-perishable food and a way to continue receiving weather alerts.

Weather News

Kacey Drescher

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