Traffic resumed through the I-5 at the Tejon Pass by Friday morning. | Credit: NWS Los Angeles

Santa Barbara, Montecito, and Carpinteria residents were treated during the Christmas evening rainstorm with a tornado warning from the National Weather Service. While no twisters touched down here, one did form in Ventura. It originated near the Santa Clara River and moved less than a mile across the city’s harbor, downing five trees, throwing a canopy off a restaurant, and scatting kayaks. No injuries were reported. The tornado, approximately 25 to 30 feet wide, was rated a “0” on the zero-to-five Enhanced Fujita Scale that rates a tornado’s intensity and damage.

Tree down at Ventura Harbor after small tornado

While the Christmas weather brought Lake Cachuma up to 72 percent full — and dropped nearly 2.5 inches at Gibraltar Dam — it blew so much snow and ice onto the Tejon Pass at Los Angeles County’s Grapevine that Interstate 5 closed at 10:30 that night. Over the next 48 hours, the state routes serving I-5 closed due to snow for short times. The National Weather Service listed 21 inches of snow at nearby Frazier Park, and Mt. Baldy ski resort reported about 12 inches.

The closure of California’s main north-south artery forced drivers to use the 101 through Santa Barbara, where 16-wheeler trucks and vehicles headed south queued for a reported six hours to get through the tri-counties. The I-5 didn’t open again until two days later on December 27, when California Highway Patrol began to escort vehicles through at 10:45 a.m., Caltrans reported.


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