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Climate and Environment

Lightning From That Thunderstorm Killed A Woman And Her 2 Dogs

Lightning strike lights up the sky, showing some downtown Los Angeles skyscrapers in the distance.
Lightning strikes near downtown L.A. as seen from Echo Park/Historic Filipinotown.
(Courtesy Javier Carmorlinga)
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The thunderstorms that occurred throughout Los Angeles County early Wednesday and into the day killed a woman and two dogs this morning.

Pico Rivera city officials said in a statement the woman and the two dogs she was walking were fatally struck by lightning at 9 a.m. in the San Gabriel Flood Control District in Pico Rivera. The L.A. County coroner's identified the woman on Thursday as Antonia Mendoza Chavez, 52 of Pico Rivera. Her autopsy has been scheduled.

After the deadly lightning strike, outdoor city workers were called inside for the rest of the day. City officials also canceled numerous outdoor activities and warned residents to "exercise extreme caution" when outdoors.

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Lightning strikes are rare in the Southland, but last night there were over 3,700 recorded, according to the city. For context, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded eight lightning deaths in California from 2006 to 2021. According to NWS and CDC data, the woman killed in Pico Rivera was the ninth lightning death recorded in the state in 16 years.

The National Weather Service's Ryan Kittell, a meteorologist, said the storm overnight Tuesday into Wednesday had instances of "dry lightning," which can be a big problem because it creates a high fire danger.

"Initially, a lot of the rain that was falling out of the clouds was evaporating by the time it hit the ground," he said. "That's the worst case scenario for fires because you can have what we call dry lightning, where a storm will produce lightning that could start a fire, but not the rain that would put it out."

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LA lightning June 22, 2022

According to the USDA Forest Service, a high number of smoke reports were called in due to the lightning.

As the weather got wetter throughout Wednesday, the moisture levels on the ground increased.

Kittell cautioned that lightning strikes could still spark a fire.

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"But the threat for that dry lightning with not much rain from the storm is definitely decreasing," he said Wednesday.

The storms mark the beginning of the North American monsoon season, which occurs as a result of heat building throughout the summer, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate.gov. The wet atmospheric conditions come from the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of California, combining with stronger winds in the region.

An animation shows a mass of water moving over the southwestern U.S. in a circular pattern.
Water vapor animation for the afternoon of August 22, 2018 showing the monsoon circulation and thunderstorm formation (dark blue, green, dark red). Dry air is shown in orange.
(Climate.gov image of original from Albuquerque, NM National Weather Service office.)

Kittell said that rain will come and go throughout L.A., with different regions getting between one-tenth and 1 inch of precipitation.

"With the off-and-on-again, randomly located nature of this system, in the setup, the amounts will be highly variable," he said.

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Corrected June 22, 2022 at 4:25 PM PDT
A previous version of this story misreported the number of historical lightning deaths in California. LAist regrets the error.