- The storms were accompanied by lightning and heavy downpours that were not typical of June in California.
- The lightning also raised concern about the potential for wildfires in the drought-stricken region.
- Lightning accounts for a large number of the forest fires in the West.
Southern California’s first lightning strike death in years was reported Wednesday as thunderstorms continued rattling across the region.
The storms come as an area of low pressure off the coast funneled monsoonal moisture into the region.
A woman and two dogs were killed by a lightning strike at 8:50 a.m. near the San Gabriel River in Pico Rivera, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Jonathan Branham.
The woman, identified by authorities as 52-year-old Antonia Mendoza Chavez, died in Pico Rivera and her last moments may have been captured on home surveillance video, according to ABC 7.
Paramedics attempted CPR but authorities told KTLA they believe her death was instant.
According to the National Lightning Safety Council, Chavez’ death marks the first time someone has been killed by lightning in 2022. In 2021, they were a reported 11 deaths from lightning strikes.
The city announced several outdoor activities were canceled due to the weather.
The storms were accompanied by lightning and heavy downpours that were not typical of June in California, forecasters said. Monsoonal moisture at this time of year is more common in Arizona and New Mexico than in California.
Amid concerns about lightning, hail and wind, the National Weather Service issued special weather advisories Wednesday morning for several parts of the region.
Southern California Edison reported power outages affecting more than 27,000 customers, mostly in Los Angeles County.
The Weather Service said most rainfall was light but there were exceptions, including a cell over the San Gabriel Mountains in Los Angeles County where a gauge recorded nearly an inch of rain.
In the Los Angles area, Ryan Kittell, a meteorologist with the Weather Service in Oxnard, said the monsoonal moisture, which is brought up from the south by a reversal in wind direction – caused Wednesday by a low-pressure system northwest of Los Angeles – usually only happens a few times a year, typically in July or August, the L.A. Times said.
The lightning also raised concern about the potential for wildfires in the drought-stricken region. “AccuWeather meteorologists are increasingly concerned about the risk for dry thunderstorms to develop across parts of California on Wednesday and into Thursday as a surge of mid-level atmospheric moisture arrives along with a jet-stream disturbance,” AccuWeather chief meteorologist Jonathan Porter said.
The threat of summer thunderstorms in the western US often puts firefighters on the alert because in the dry West, the humidity is often so low that rain falling from thunderstorms evaporates before reaching the ground. Such evaporating rain is called “virga.”
Even though the rain doesn’t make it to the ground, flashes of lightning streak from the clouds to the ground. This lightning can start fires in dry woods with no rain to extinguish or slow the blazes.
Lightning accounts for a large number of the forest fires in the West.
The largest wildfire in California history, the August Complex Fire, burned more than 1 million acres after it ignited due to lightning in August 2020. That blaze destroyed more than 900 structures across seven counties and left 1 dead.
Farther to the east, over the past several days, southerly breezes have kicked in over the interior Southwest, AccuWeather said. This change in the wind direction from the west to the south is known as the North American monsoon. The uptick in moisture has unleashed numerous showers and thunderstorms there, especially in New Mexico.
In Southern California, forecasters said the weather would start calming down on Thursday and then become more Junelike.
Contributing: Asha C. Gilbert, USA TODAY; The Associated Press