California Residents Face Tragedy and Power Outages in Wake of Brutal Bomb Cyclone

California Residents Face Tragedy and Power Outages in Wake of Brutal Bomb Cyclone
Amber Balog surveys the damage to a friend's vehicle after a saturated and wind-blown limb fell on Monte Verde Drive in Santa Rosa, Calif., on March 21, 2023. (Kent Porter/The Press Democrat via AP)
Katabella Roberts

Officials in California have reported at least five storm-related deaths while thousands are still without power after a bomb cyclone hit the San Francisco Bay area on Tuesday, March 21, bringing with it heavy rains, winds of up to 90 mph, and at least one tornado.

One person was killed in Walnut Creek, a city in Contra Costa County, after a tree fell on a vehicle while they were seated inside, the local fire department said. The driver of the vehicle was also injured.
Another person was killed on Tuesday when a tree fell onto his moving vehicle in Portola Valley, San Mateo County, according to the California Highway Patrol. That incident occurred at about 1:34 p.m. Officers responded to the scene and removed some of the large branches that had fallen on top of the van but found the man had died, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Two people died after being hospitalized at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital on March 21 due to injuries resulting from two separate storm-related incidents, city officials said.
A homeless man also reportedly died after a 50-foot tree fell on his tent at Lake Merritt, Oakland, The New York Times reported.
The intense weather also prompted multiple road closures on Tuesday afternoon after a big rig overturned on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge amid strong winds, closing all eastbound lanes for several hours.

Train Overturns, Tornado Touches Down

The ferry service was suspended on Tuesday due to hazardous bay conditions, and an industrial barge broke loose and smashed the Third Street Bridge in San Francisco, officials said.
An Amtrak train with 55 passengers on board also derailed in Contra Costa County due to a downed tree, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. No injuries were reported but passengers were delayed for more than three hours.
Tuesday's storm bought hurricane-force winds of up to 70 to 80 mph at higher elevations, while lower elevations had gusts up to 50 to 60 mph, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).
NWS Los Angeles confirmed that a tornado had touched down in Montebello at around 11:20 a.m. Wednesday morning. One person was injured and was taken to a hospital in the area, said Alex Gillman, a city spokesman. The extent of the individual's injuries are not immediately clear.
Another tornado was confirmed in Carpinteria on Tuesday, with winds that reached up to 75 mph and damaging mobile homes, according to meteorologists.
The strong wind also blew out windows from at least two San Francisco high-rises, NBC Bay Area reported.
NWS Oxnard said in an update on Wednesday that it would send a team to survey the damage in the Montebello area, where 17 structures were damaged, 11 of which suffered significant damage.

Homes Evacuated

The town of Woodside, about 32 miles south of San Francisco, was under a "highly recommended evacuation" Wednesday morning after a mudslide shut down a road, impacting about 30 homes, officials said.

"If you live in this area, please pack your ‘Go Bag,’ with all necessary essentials: insurance policy, pets, medications, a change of clothes, and LEAVE NOW," San Mateo County officials said in a Twitter post. "Once the road gives out completely, residents in that area will not have access to emergency services for the foreseeable future."

Elsewhere in the state on Wednesday morning, more than 130,000 customers were without power, according to, although by late evening, that number had more than halved to 57,412. The majority of outages were concentrated to the San Francisco area.
Utility company Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) said Wednesday on Twitter that its crews are "out in force" conducting damage assessments from the storm, which they said damaged electric equipment. As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, crews had identified 126 damaged poles and 109 damaged transformers but further damages were expected.
A man uses an umbrella to shield from the wind and rain in Oakland, Calif., on March 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)
A man uses an umbrella to shield from the wind and rain in Oakland, Calif., on March 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

California has seen multiple atmospheric rivers in recent months, bringing with them heavy rain, thunderstorms, and strong winds as well as severe flooding, which has relieved drought conditions for large swathes of the state.

While rain showers are widely expected to subside Wednesday night, another storm system could be on the way as soon as next week, NWS said.