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Expert: Tornado hit Santa Rosa

Amid the rain, hail and scattered snow that doused the North Coast on Friday, Santa Rosa was lashed with a fierce gust of wind that weather experts said may have been a small tornado.

It was all part of an extended storm front expected to linger through Saturday, then intensify, dumping an even larger amount of moisture on the region Sunday.

Strong winds of up to 50 mph accompanied Friday's system. And the gust that touched down in Santa Rosa, ripping off a large section of tin roof at a landscaping business and causing other damage, may have been a small tornado, a federal forecaster said.

Tornado Hits Santa Rosa

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The wind hit Sequoia Landscape Materials on Pacific Avenue and King Street and nearby houses just before 9:15 a.m. with what witnesses described as shaking and a roar.

"I saw the wind just pick up the roof and blow it up into the air," said Sue Minnigerode, owner of the landscape business.

The 150-foot section of corrugated tin roof was torn from the sturdy wooden posts supporting the outdoor shed and the entire structure then toppled over, coming to rest partly on Pacific Avenue.

Overhead power lines also were downed and debris was flung into nearby yards. A section of the tin roof came to rest high in a tree across the street.

Four workers were inside other buildings at the landscape business, but no one was injured.

Santa Rosa Fire Capt. Greg McCollum described the wind gust as "Kansas-type stuff." He stopped short of calling it a tornado, dubbing it a "funnel cloud."

But such formations don't touch ground or cause the type and extent of damage seen in the Santa Rosa neighborhood, said Steve Anderson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.


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