A woman walking two small dogs in Pico Rivera was struck and killed by lightning, officials said, as unusual early summer thunderstorms pushed through Southern California on Wednesday, June 22.
The monsoon-like storm system also prompted temporary beach closures in Orange and Los Angeles counties and led to scattered power outages, along with warm and muggy conditions, across the region.
In Pico Rivera, the deadly lightning strike occurred 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. The two dogs also died.
A passerby saw the woman in distress on the pathway and called 911 around 9 a.m.. and fire officials determined that, based on the injuries, she had been hit by lightning, according to sheriff’s Capt. Jody Hutak.
The woman’s death led Pico Rivera’s city manager, Steve Carmona, to warn the city’s public works staff and other city workers in the field, telling them to stay indoors. The city also closed the golf course on the north side of the city, canceled the local farmer’s market and directed that summer camp be held indoors, he said.
The unsettled weather also shut down several local beaches along the Orange County and Long Beach coastline, as lighting strikes were reported near the shore. Shorelines were back open by the afternoon.
Huntington Beach from Beach Boulevard to Seapoint Avenue, as well as the Huntington Harbour public areas and Sunset Beach area, were among the first to close at 8:30 a.m. due to nearby lightning strikes, said Huntington Beach Marine Safety Division Chief Eric Dieterman.
He said they thought it would be a quick episode of turbulent weather, but it kept “rolling through” during the morning hours.
— Mark Evans (@markevans_ap) June 22, 2022
A strong storm cell developed early Wednesday over the Pasadena area, prompting the National Weather Service to warn of potentially gusty winds, lightning and even hail in parts of the San Gabriel Valley.
The weather service also reported lightning strikes and thunderstorms Wednesday morning 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.
By daybreak, forecasters said the eastern portion of the county had been “overrun with showers and (thunderstorms).” Most areas that received showers saw relatively low rainfall totals, generally less than a quarter-inch, but forecasters warned of potentially higher amounts in select areas. One area in the San Gabriel Mountains had received just under an inch as of mid-morning.
In Pasadena, lightning struck a palm tree by Manzanita Avenue and Clinton Street around 8 a.m. on Wednesday which caused a small power outage, said Lisa Derderian, city spokeswoman. The fire was quickly put out, she said, and fewer than 20 accounts were affected by the outage, she said.
Callers also reported seeing smoke near Eaton Canyon and Henninger Flats in the forest at about 9:30 a.m., she said. The U.S. Forest Service asked the Pasadena Fire and Los Angeles County Fire Department for assistance, Derderian said.
E32 assisted ANF & LAC on a lightening strike above Henniger Flats called “Eaton Fire”. Due to access issues UTV32 was used to shuttle crews to the fire line. pic.twitter.com/7nqdz6e6Te
— Pasadena Fire Dept. (@PasadenaFD) June 22, 2022
Firefighters also responded to several calls of smoke in the forest due to lightning, according to Dana Dierkes, spokeswoman for the Angeles National Forest.
They’ve had hundreds of lightning activity within the past 24 hours, she said. But Dierkes pointed out that not all lightning hit the ground.
Angeles National Forest firefighters have responded to numerous smoke reports due to lightning. Crews continue to actively suppress any new fires.
The map below shows lighting activity (polarity) in red plus (+) symbols and blue dashes (-). Some lighting never hits the ground. pic.twitter.com/IDtltBpfRj
— Angeles National Forest (@Angeles_NF) June 22, 2022
La Verne police told the public to avoid the area of 8th Street and Marco Court due to lightning hitting a transformer. The transformer also caused a power outage, police said.
In Whittier and the unincorporated county areas near the city, residents reported seeing hail.
Hail in Whittier. pic.twitter.com/ewesuBrRcy
— Keith Durflinger (@PhotoDurf) December 28, 2020
While much of Los Angeles County saw storms off and on Wednesday, the weather system will shift to the mountains and the desert areas, according to Ryan Kittell, meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
“For most of the metro area it will be most active this morning,” he said. The amounts of rain will vary with some areas getting a 10th of an inch, Kittell said.
While Orange County residents saw thunderstorms, lightning and thunder, there was no significant rainfall, Dan Gregoria, meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said Wednesday morning. “The showers and storms will disappear and die off (Wednesday night),” he said. “There would be isolated thunderstorms over the mountains Thursday afternoon.”
The highest rainfall total as of midday Wednesday in Los Angeles County was 1.02 inches near Chilao Flat in the forest, Kittell said.
“There hasn’t been really much rain,” Gregoria said. “We have a dry atmosphere in the lower level. As the rain falls, a lot of it evaporates.”
He said a tenth of an inch of rain fell in Orange county and the Inland Empire from Tuesday night to Wednesday morning. But in the mountain areas, he said around half an inch fell.
On Thursday, Kittell said we might see showers or thunderstorms in the mountains and desert areas in Los Angeles County in the afternoon.
There is a 5 percent chance of rain for the coastal and valley areas on Thursday but 20 percent chance of rain for the mountains and desert area on Thursday afternoon, he said.
There is a slight chance of thunderstorms Thursday in the desert areas, Gregoria said.
The mercury is expect to hit the mid 80s to 90s in the inland areas of Los Angeles County which includes the San Fernando Valley, the San Gabriel Valley and downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday, according to Kittell. The beach areas will be in the 70s, he added.
Thursday’s temperatures will be 85 to 95 degrees but not as humid, he said. The beach areaS will still be in the 70s but less humid.
The 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.
The temperatures will be about the same on Thursday, Gregoria said,
Staff writer Laylan Connelly and City News Service contributed to this report