Closing system

Woman and 2 dogs killed by lightning as thunderstorms sweep through Southern California

A woman walking two small dogs in Pico Rivera was struck and killed by lightning, officials said, as unusual early summer thunderstorms rolled through Southern California on Wednesday, June 22.

The monsoon-like storm system led to scattered power outages and the temporary closure of a university campus and beaches in some coastal areas.

In Pico Rivera, the deadly lightning struck around 8:50 a.m. as the woman was walking along the San Gabriel River, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. The woman, who was not immediately identified, died at the scene, officials said. Both dogs also perished.

A passerby saw the distressed woman on the trail and called 911 around 9 a.m. Firefighters determined she had been struck by lightning, according to Sheriff Captain Jody Hutak.

His death led Pico Rivera City Manager Steve Carmona to warn city workers on the ground to stay indoors. The city also closed a golf course on the north side of town, canceled the local farmer’s market and ordered summer camp to be held indoors, he said.

The erratic weather also closed several local beaches along the Orange County and Long Beach shoreline as lightning strikes were reported near shore. The banks were open again in the afternoon.

Huntington Beach, from Beach Boulevard to Seapoint Avenue, as well as public spaces in Huntington Harbor and Sunset Beach, were among the first to close at 8:30 a.m. due to nearby lightning, said Eric Dieterman, division chief of the Huntington Beach Marine Safety.

He said they thought it would be a quick bout of turbulent weather, but it continued to “unwind” during the morning hours.

A strong thunderstorm cell developed early Wednesday in the Pasadena area, prompting the National Weather Service to warn of potentially high winds, lightning and even hail in parts of the San Gabriel Valley.

The weather service also reported lightning and thunderstorms over Mount Wilson, with the system moving northwest covering Monrovia, Angeles Crest Highway between Mount Wilson and Mount Waterman, Sierra Madre, Arcadia and Duarte. The NWS recorded wind gusts reaching 51 mph on Mount Wilson and up to 66 mph in the Lake Hughes area.

At daybreak, forecasters said the eastern part of the county had been “inundated with showers and (thunderstorms).” Most areas that received downpours recorded relatively light rainfall totals, typically less than a quarter inch, but forecasters warned of potentially higher amounts in some areas.

In Pasadena, lightning struck a palm tree near Manzanita Avenue and Clinton Street around 8 a.m., causing a small power outage, said city spokeswoman Lisa Derderian. The fire was quickly put out, she said, and less than 20 accounts were affected by the outage, she said.

Callers also reported seeing smoke near Eaton Canyon and Henninger Flats in the forest around 9:30 a.m., she said. The US Forest Service has requested assistance from Pasadena and Los Angeles County firefighters, Derderian said.

Firefighters also responded to multiple smoke calls in the forest due to lightning, according to Angeles National Forest spokeswoman Dana Dierkes. The US Forest Service has three small lightning-caused fires under control in the area west of Mount Wilson, Sulfur Springs and Mount Harvard near Henninger Flats, the agency said.

They’ve had hundreds of lightning activity over the past 24 hours, she said. But Dierkes pointed out that not all lightning strikes the ground.

La Verne police asked the public to avoid the 8th Street and Marco Court area the morning after lightning struck a transformer, but cleared the scene in the afternoon. The strike caused a power outage, leaving 74 customers without power as of 4:30 p.m., according to Southern California Edison.

Dozens of power outages related to storm conditions were reported in the area Wednesday afternoon, according to SCE.

Cerritos College closed its campus for the rest of Wednesday after a power outage caused by lightning, the college said.

In Whittier and unincorporated parts of the county near the city, residents reported seeing hail. Reports of hail also came from the Big Bear area, according to Casey Oswant, an NWS meteorologist.

While much of Los Angeles County experienced storms on Wednesday, the weather system will shift toward mountains and desert areas, according to NWS meteorologist Ryan Kittell. Areas around Hemet and Beaumont could see scattered showers throughout Wednesday evening and night, according to Oswant.

While Orange County residents saw thunderstorms, lightning and thunder, there was no significant rainfall, National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Gregoria said Wednesday morning. “Showers and thunderstorms will subside and die (Wednesday night),” he said. “There would be isolated thunderstorms over the mountains on Thursday afternoon.”

The highest rainfall total as of noon Wednesday in Los Angeles County was 1.02 inches near Chilao Flat in the Angeles National Forest, Kittell said. Between a quarter and a half inch of precipitation was reported west of the San Gabriel Mountains to the Antelope Valley, said NWS meteorologist Kristen Stewart.

A flash flood warning was issued for San Gorgonio Pass near Whitewater until 6:30 p.m. after half an inch of rain fell in 15 minutes, Oswant said. Road flooding has been reported in the area, she said.

Gregoria said a tenth of an inch of rain fell in Orange County and the Inland Empire from Tuesday evening through Wednesday morning. But in mountainous areas, he said about half an inch fell.

Thomas Mountain, located in the mountains of Riverside County, recorded 0.81 inches of rain over a 24-hour period, Oswant said.

On Thursday, Kittell said we could see showers or thunderstorms in the mountains and desert areas of Los Angeles County in the afternoon.

There is 5% chance of rain for coastal areas and valleys on Thursday, but 20% chance of rain for mountains and desert area on Thursday afternoon, he said.

There is a slight risk of thunderstorms Thursday in desert areas, Gregoria said.

Mercury is expected to reach the mid-80s to 90s in inland areas of Los Angeles County, which includes the San Fernando Valley, San Gabriel Valley and downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday, according to Kittell. The beach areas will be in the 70s, he added.

Temperatures Thursday will be 85 to 95 degrees but not as humid, he said. The beaches will still be in the 70s but less humid.

Highs along the coast in Orange County will be in the 70s and around the 90s in inland areas like Anaheim on Wednesday, Gregoria said. High temperatures in the Inland Empire will be in the mid-90s, he added.

Temperatures will be about the same on Thursday, Gregoria said,

Editor Laylan Connelly and City News Service contributed to this report