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Tornado touches down in rural south Merced

Submitted photo by Shellie Kuhr

A tornado briefly touched down near rural south Merced on Monday, according to the National Weather Service.

A funnel cloud appeared at approximately 11:25 a.m. and dissipated by 11:45, said Gary Sanger, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Hanford office.

"We have a very cold unstable air mass over the valley, so there's a potential for scattered showers, thunderstorms and more funnel clouds into the evening hours," Sanger said.

A pilot observed the tornado touch down in a field, approximately 10 miles south of Castle Airport, and reported the sighting to the Federal Aviation Administration office in Oakland, Sanger said. The Merced County Sheriff's Department said no damages or injuries have been reported.

It was the first tornado reported in the Central Valley in 13 months, Sanger said. The last tornado was Jan. 27, 2008, near the western outskirts of Visalia. According to the Sun-Star's archive, a tornado in March 2006 ripped off the roof of a barn near Gerard Avenue in South Merced.

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