Jumpabola Pragmatic

Wild thunderstorms hit greater San Diego with 283 lightning bolts

Wild thunderstorms erupted across San Diego County Friday, producing 283 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes as of 6 p.m. that hit everywhere from the flats of Mission Bay to the slopes of Palomar Mountain to the spiky tree lines of Alpine, the National Weather Service said.

The electrical storm was so severe San Diego International Airport was forced to briefly stop fueling aircraft, the San Diego Padres covered their infield with a tarp ahead of Friday night’s game with Atlanta, and concert organizers weighed whether it would be possible for the Little River Band to perform at Humphrey’s on San Diego Bay.

In La Mesa, a 50- to 60-foot tall tree toppled over and stretched across Panorama Drive late in the afternoon, taking down live power lines and damaging a home. Heartland Fire Battalion Chief Sam Rihan told OnScene TV that officials believe weather was to blame.

Flooding on state Route 94 in Spring Valley led officials to close westbound lanes at Via Mercado for a stretch during the evening commute, Caltrans reported. OnScene footage showed crews clearing mud from the road.

And shortly after 6:10 p.m. a transformer exploded in Spring Valley, a sheriff’s watch commander said, adding that lightning might have been the culprit.

“It’s pretty rare to have this type of thunderstorm pattern in the county at this time of year,” said Phil Gonsalves, a weather service forecaster. “We could get more of this tomorrow.”

The thunderstorms also produced significant rain in a county that’s received only about half of its seasonal precipitation.

By late afternoon, the airport had recorded almost a half-inch of rain, pushing its seasonal total to roughly 5.22 inches. Point Loma got 0.56 inches. And parts of Palomar got drenched with 1.69 inches, and hail the size of a quarter.

The stormy weather also knocked out power to homes and businesses, including nearly 2,000 San Diego Gas & Electric customers in Chula Vista. They were among about 4,000 customers without power in the region Friday afternoon.

Crews were out making repairs to “get the light back on as soon as the storm passes,” SGD&E spokeswoman Krista Van Tassel said.

The onslaught came at the end of a strange week in which greater San Diego experienced Santa Ana winds, a heat wave, skies tinged by smoke from distant wildfires, thunder, lightning, rain and hail.

Friday’s meteorological mayhem began at about 11 a.m. when thunderstorms arising from unstable air out of Mexico began moving through the local mountains, throwing off lots of lightning, and producing sonorous boom-boom-booms.

Those cells shuffled west and did a number in and around Escondido, Ramona, San Marcos and in Alpine, which would also get hit by 60 mph winds before the day was over.

Soon, brightly-colored weather alerts began appearing on cellphones and watches, making this a communal event.

The mini-storms continued their march to the coast, popping off lightning and generating beady bits of rain in Encinitas and Carlsbad.

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Thunder and lighting in Otay Ranch

Cells also surged to life near Otay Ranch and near South Park, bringing lots of thunder. It echoed through the sky, moving toward East Village, where the Padres were preparing to play Atlanta.

Then came lightning. The strikes weren’t as spectacular as the electrical show that played out along the coast on Sept. 9. But they were plenty bright and totally menacing. The air around a lightning bolt can reach 50,000 degrees.

Things got rougher as the afternoon went on. Huge cells arose and pushed, producing lightning that rumbled through the low-rises of National City and the high-rises of downtown San Diego. The lightning made things even more menacing, and sent people running for cover.

There also was reason to be thankful.

The storms didn’t amount to a drought buster. But they were helpful. La Mesa got 0.89 inches of rain while San Diego Country Estates recorded 0.59 inches and Alpine got 0.51 inches. That was enough to briefly reduce the wildfire danger locally.

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Rain and hail in North Park