A woman and her two dogs were fatally struck by lightning in Pico Rivera Wednesday morning as thunderstorms ravaged Southern California, prompting officials to temporarily close beaches and stay alert for fires caused by dry lightning.
The woman and dogs were killed while walking on a trail along the San Gabriel River just before 9 a.m. when severe weather hit southeastern Los Angeles, Sgt. Patrick Morey, Pico Rivera’s field sergeant.
“All of a sudden it started to thunder and lightning,” Morey said. “…There’s a one in a million chance that something like this will happen and it did.”
Officials did not identify the woman or release many other details about the incident at a news conference Wednesday not far from where a series of scorched holes marred the tarmac of the path, marking the deadly lightning strike. LA County Sheriff’s Deputy Morgan Ateaga, a spokesman for the department, said a passerby alerted authorities after he noticed the woman, who was in her 50s, and her dogs, but paramedics were unable to help her. resuscitate.
The woman’s death was the country’s first recorded lightning strike this year, according to the National Lightning Security Council† Deadly strikes are still quite rare, but have occurred 11 to 40 times a year over the past ten years, according to the group.
As monsoons swept through Southern California overnight and into parts of the region on Wednesday were struck by thunder, lightningrain, strong wind and even hail.
The National Weather Service issued special weather advisories for various parts of the region Wednesday morning and afternoon, warning people to take extra care and seek shelter in inclement weather.
Although rainfall and storms were strongest in northern and eastern Los Angeles County, extreme weather hit the region from western Orange County, where Newport Beach temporarily closed beaches early Wednesday due to lightning, to downtown Ventura County, where firefighters responded to at least two wildfires in the area of recent storms, and further north to Kern Countywhere lightning triggered dozens of emergency calls.
A forest fire which ignited east of the 5 Freeway near the Grapevine had grown to about 800 acres with 10% containment Wednesday night, according to the Kern County Fire Department. The cause was being investigated, but the lightning is believed to have been sparked, said Captain Andrew Freeborn.
The cells of rain and storms were scattered, hitting areas such as Long Beach, downtown LA, Glendale, the western San Gabriel Valley, and the Antelope Valley, the latter under a flood advice for about two o’clock Wednesday afternoon.
“We had a pretty active night last night and it continues this morning,” said Ryan Kittell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard. “Each of these storms can produce a lot of lightning, and we’ve seen some wind gusts already. … We’ve had some reports of pea-sized hail.”
He said gusts were recorded just west of Lancaster at 66 mph and hail had been reported overnight in Camarillo and Pasadena, with more likely to come during the day.
Cerritos College in Norwalk announced that it has closed the campus Wednesday after a lightning strike and subsequent power outage across the campus, one of several power outages across the region.
Kittell said lightning was the main concern, especially “dry lightning,” which can hit the already dry ground without much rain, becoming a massive fire threat.
“In the past hour, we’ve had 208 lightning strikes that hit the ground in Los Angeles County,” Kittell said at about 8 a.m. Wednesday. He said the agency recorded an additional 350 lightning strikes that stayed in the clouds, totaling “quite a bit of lightning” in the area.
“Lightning is a very good fire-starting source and the environment is quite ripe for fire at this point,” Kittell said. He said Wednesday morning the threat of “dry lightning” remained high and the agency had been monitoring some reports of smashed utility pylons and small fires.
The monsoon moisture that triggered Wednesday’s storms was a culmination of other pressure systems in the region that changed wind direction and pulled tropical moisture out of Mexico, Kittell said. A low pressure area northwest of Los Angeles changed the wind direction — now it’s blowing south to north instead of its typical west to east.
He said the weather pattern only occurs a few times a year, usually in July or August.
Firefighters in the Angeles National Forest responded to numerous reports of smoke from lightning strikes, officials reported, but crews contain no flames.
The storms started to mid-morning expanding to Central California On Wednesday, National Weather Service officials warned that Kern County could see the worst thunderstorms for that region. In Fresno early Wednesday, officials responded to a wildfire caused by a thunderstorm, the Fresno Bee reported† It had since been recorded.
In Pico Rivera, some neighbors gathered near the path where the woman died on Wednesday afternoon, many wondering if they knew her. In the distance toward the San Gabriel Mountains, lightning continued to strike the sky.
“We’ll just have to get out of here, you never know,” said Marco Rodriguez, who was walking down the trail with his chocolate Labrador Jasper. He turned to go home when he learned that the woman and her dogs had died.
Others seemed undaunted and cycled past what appeared to be burn marks and holes from the lightning strike. A tuft of light brown fur lay nearby.
“You start thinking about who your regulars are in the morning,” says Sandra Sipaque, who lives close to the trail and often walks on it with her husband. “Everyone knows each other – we all take care of each other here.”
Mary Perez has lived on Mines Avenue — the road closest to where the woman died — since the 1970s and said she and her granddaughters watched the lightning bolt over their house early Wednesday. As sirens approached their street, she led paramedics to the river path.
“We don’t know if we know her or not,” Perez said as she stood next to her granddaughters, concerned that the woman was a neighbor who often walked her two dogs. “We hope it isn’t her.”
In the early afternoon, a coroner removed the woman’s body. An hour later, when it started to rain, a team from the animal protection authority arrived in the southeast of the area to collect the dogs, which were placed in black plastic bags and taken away.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times†