01/07/2016 12:30PM

Tornado damages Miller's barn at San Luis Rey Downs

Courtesy of Peter Miller
A small tornado tore the roofs from several stalls at Peter Miller's barn at San Luis Rey Downs. No injuries were reported.

A small tornado ripped the roof off several stalls at trainer Peter Miller’s barn at San Luis Rey Downs late Wednesday afternoon, the most significant damage from a series of storms that have pounded Southern California this week as the predicted El Niño weather pattern materializes.

Miller said that none of his horses nor employees were injured, but he believes the barn’s damage might be so extensive that it will have to be torn down.

“It’s miraculous that no person or horse was injured,” Miller said Thursday. “I’ve had to move the entire barn. The barn is compromised.”

Miller’s barn is near the front gate of San Luis Rey Downs, a training center in northeast San Diego County.

“The people in the security office saw it hit the barn,” Miller said. “It happened right at feed time.”

Kevin Havell, the general manager at San Luis Rey Downs, said the tornado “went right in front of me.”

“I’ve seen those little dust devils, but this thing was about 20 feet wide and 50 feet tall, just whipping by,” Havell said Thursday. “It hit Pete’s barn, but the only other damage was just a few shingles blown off another barn. It was the most bizarre thing.”

Miller said he had about 40 horses in the barn. He moved 25 to an adjacent barn that was unoccupied and undamaged and put the remaining horses in other barns where stalls were available.

The wet weather has compromised training throughout Southern California. San Luis Rey Downs has limited horses to jogging on its main track, and at Santa Anita – where racing resumed Thursday following three scheduled days off – gallops and workouts have been confined to the infield training track.

Horses working out are given priority in the few minutes after each of the two renovation breaks, after which gallopers are allowed on the surface.

With a forecast for heavy rain, Santa Anita did not card turf races from Thursday through Saturday this week.