The tornado that tore through Denair Sunday afternoon was categorized as an EF-1 storm and had sustained winds of 86 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service.
The tornado traversed a three-mile path near E. Zeering Road and had two reported touch downs as it moved to the east. The first reported touchdown was at 1:45 p.m. in Denair and the second was reported at 2 p.m. in an area between Denair and Hughson.
No injuries were reported, but the twister left a path of destruction that ranged from toppled and uprooted trees to structures that sustained moderate to significant damage from the wind, including a barn that had the roof torn off. A total of 21 structures were damaged during the incident, according to the Stanislaus County Office of Emergency Services.
The Denair Fire Department received the first 911 call reporting a possible tornado just before 2 p.m. from a caller in the 3900 block of Gratton Road. The department received several more emergency calls reporting tornado sightings and when emergency crews reached the area of Santa Fe Avenue and E. Zeering Road they found a stretch of damaged power lines, fallen trees, and debris scattered all about.
The damaged power lines kept most Denair residents without electricity for a good portion of the day. Some of the homes also had potential gas leaks and gas to those homes was turned off. Crews from the Turlock Irrigation District were on scene to repair some of the damaged power lines. PG&E also responded to restore gas to about 50 homes. Water district employees were able to keep water running for Denair.
The American Red Cross set up a respite center at the Denair Elementary School to provide residents with food, snacks and temporary shelter from the cold. Denair Lumber also opened Sunday to provide emergency building supplies for residents.
The Stanislaus County Office of Emergency Services immediately set up to coordinate resources of agencies working in Denair. Emergency services personnel from several agencies responded to assist Denair Fire, including the California Highway Patrol, the California department of Fish and Game, the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department, the Turlock Rural Fire Department and the Turlock Fire Department.
“This is a rare occurrence in Stanislaus County to have a possible tornado touchdown in our county. All agencies that responded did a fantastic job working together to help the residents of Denair,” said OES Chief Dale Skiles.
The National Weather Service confirmed the tornado through video and eyewitness accounts. The agency made the storm classification after an official surveyed the damage on Monday. Storm classifications range from EF-0 to EF-5. An EF-1 storm is one with wind speeds between 86 to 111 mph.
All of the schools in the Denair Unified School District were open Monday. None of the campuses sustained damage in the tornado, with the exception of some outdoor furniture at Denair Middle School.