Jimmy Taeger of the NWS said a weather spotter reported seeing two funnel clouds near Interstate 15 between Lake Elsinore and Perris late Sunday Afternoon.
The report prompted the weather service to issue a tornado warning, which are issued when funnel clouds are sited in the area. There were no immediate reports of damage.
Thunderstorms brought heavy rain and hail across the region, and sudden wind gusts snapped utility poles and ripped some roofs in the Nuevo community east of Perris. The California Highway Patrol said the downed poles trapped six people in a car.
As we first reported, The tornado was reported along Highway 74 west of Interstate 15 at 4:24 p.m. after two weather spotters reported two funnel clouds in the area. One touched the ground, one spotter told Roger Pierce, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in San Diego.
"He said he saw debris in the air, so it was picking up brush and dirt," Pierce said by phone.
The funnel clouds prompted the Weather Service to issue a tornado warning from 4:33 p.m. until 5 p.m. Sunday.
The tornado report was one of several wild weather incidents to hit Inland Southern California on Sunday. High winds knocked down power lines in Perris and caused some flooding in mountain areas. Video we showed on our Ten O'Clock News shot by Casper News confirmed the damage.
Deputies were called to assist California Highway Patrol officers close several roads in the area at 4:02 p.m., Deputy Albert Martinez said. Sudden wind gusts blew down at least two wood utility poles and tore up some roofing on homes near Menifee and Nuevo roads, one resident said.
According to the Press-Enterprise, Nuevo resident Casey McDonald said two people had to be guided from their cars by Highway Patrol officers after sudden winds snapped power lines. Calls to the sheriff's department initially reported a tornado, but McDonald said he didn't see a funnel cloud.
"It didn't look like a tornado," McDonald said by phone. "It was just some crazy wind."
Pierce said a sudden downdraft, or microburst, could have smashed the utility poles. He said one such downdraft from storms that swept through Inland Southern California on Saturday reached estimated speeds of 88 mph. -- 14 mph higher than hurricane force.
Storm Chaser Will Wilkens of Hesperia was in the area at the time and snapped a picture of a lowering dark cloud to the northeast he believes eventually dropped the tornado 10 minutes later. To the west, his friend and neighbor Tom Halderman was on the west side of the storm and took a series of pictures of a funnel cloud around the time of the tornado confirmation.
Whatever it was that struck the area on Sunday afternoon that snapped power poles like toothpicks and damaged near-by roofs, it is a reminder that despite the fact Tornadoes here in Southern California are rare, they can happen.
The Summer Monsoon Season is prime time for severe weather - especially in our mountains and desert areas. The best thing we can do is to be prepared.