Wednesday, February 28

Thunderstorms, lightning hit SoCal as monsoonal moisture brings extreme weather

Parts of Southern California were hit by thunder, lightning, rain and even hail overnight and into Wednesday morning as monsoonal moisture moved through the region.

The National Weather Service issued special weather advisories Wednesday morning for several parts of the region, warning of rain, possible lightning strikes, heavy winds and thunder.

The cells of rain were scattered, hitting such areas as Long Beach, downtown L.A., Glendale, the western San Gabriel Valley and Antelope Valley.

“We had quite an active night last night, and it’s continuing this morning,” said Ryan Kittell, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard. “Any of these storms could produce a lot of lightning, and we’ve seen some gusty winds already. … We’ve had some reports of pea-sized hail.”

He said wind gusts were recorded at 66 mph just west of Lancaster, and the hail had been reported in Camarillo and Pasadena overnight.

Officials urged people to take extra caution during the morning commute.

“Expecting brief heavy showers, small hail, and gusty winds for your morning commute,” the NWS said in a statement.

Kittell said lightning remains the largest concern, especially “dry lightning,” which can hit the already dry ground without much rain, becoming a huge fire threat.

“In the last hour we’ve had 208 lightning strikes that have hit the ground in Los Angeles County,” Kittell said at about 8 a.m. Wednesday. He said they recorded an additional 350 lightning strikes that remained in the clouds, totaling “quite a bit of lightning” in the area.

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“Lightning is a very good fire starting source and the environment is pretty ripe for fire right now,” Kittell said. He said Wednesday morning the threat for “dry lightning” remains high, and there have been some reports of struck power poles and minor fires, but all have been manageable so far.

He did say that the afternoon should bring more moisture with the storms, which should lessen the threat of that dry lightning.

There were a few scattered power outages reported.

Officials urged campers and others outdoors to seek shelter when lightning and thunder hit and to be on the lookout for fires.

The Los Angeles area has a 50% chance of showers Wednesday with highs near 90.

Officials said mountain and desert areas could see more extreme weather through the afternoon.

Kittell 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 once or twice a year, typically in July or August.

He said the weather is expected to continue or intensify throughout the day Wednesday, but should slow down overnight.

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