The first storm of the season brought rain, lightning and even scattered hail to the Southland Wednesday, prompting voluntary evacuation orders for some hillside residents in Orange County and briefly prompting lifeguards to clear people from beaches in Santa Monica and Seal Beach.
Scattered rain fell across the region overnight, building slowly as the morning wore on. Brief heavy downpours were reported in areas including Culver City, El Monte and downtown Los Angeles, while lighting was spotted near Seal Beach and Santa Monica.
Seal Beach officials briefly closed its pier and coastline due to the lightning strikes around 9 a.m., but the areas were reopened when the storm cell moved on. Santa Monica officials took similar action around the same time due to lightning.
Los Angeles County lifeguards said they would be keeping close watch on the skies at beaches across the area, and they urged anyone who sees lightning to seek shelter indoors.
In Orange County, a voluntary evacuation order was issued for residents near the 2018 Holy Fire burn area, with sheriff’s officials citing the potential for flooding or debris flows. About 100 homes were affected by the order.
National Weather Service forecasters in Oxnard said that while some Los Angeles County areas could see isolated intense downpours, the chances of debris flows were considered small.
Since the start of the rainy season on Oct 1, the Southland has only received trace amounts of rain, but Wednesday’s storm was changing that dramatically, said NWS meteorologist Curt Kaplan.
In the mountains, a winter weather advisory went into effect at 7 a.m., expiring at 7 p.m. Thursday, with the snow level falling to 5,500 feet and up to 6 inches of snow expected to accumulate above 7,000 feet.
“Slow down and use caution while traveling,” urged an NWS statement.
Along the coast, sets of up to 8 feet are expected on west-facing beaches Wednesday night, continuing through Thursday morning.
“There is an increased risk for ocean drowning,” according to the NWS. “Rip currents can pull swimmers and surfers out to sea. Large breaking waves can cause injury, wash people off beaches and rocks and capsize small boats near shore.
“…Swim near a lifeguard. If caught in a rip current, relax and float. Don’t swim against the current. If able, swim in a direction following the shoreline. If unable to escape, face the shore and call or wave for help.”
The NWS forecast high temperatures of 45 on Mount Wilson; 56 in Saugus and Lancaster; 58 in Saugus; 61 in Burbank and San Gabriel; 62 in Avalon and Pasadena; 64 in Downtown L.A., Long Beach, and Woodland Hills; and 65 at LAX. Temperatures will be about the same Thursday, then begin a slow warmup.
A combination of showers and thunderstorms were forecast in Orange County, where, in an unusual development, inland county temperatures in many cases were as low as along the coast or lower. Highs were 40 degrees on Santiago Peak; 49 on Ortega Highway at 2,600 feet; 55 in Fremont Canyon and Trabuco Canyon; 58 in Yorba Linda; 59 in Laguna Beach and San Clemente; 60 in Anaheim; 61 in Fullerton, Irvine and Newport Beach. Orange County temperatures will rise starting Thursday but not significantly until Saturday.
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