Already suffering under a heat wave, Southern California faced intense summer storms that moved in Thursday afternoon, bringing lightning strikes that set off brush fires as well as intense downpours.
A 25-acre brush fire erupted near the 5 Freeway about 4:36 p.m. amid a lightning storm, said Fire Inspector Gustavo Medina, spokesman for the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
The blaze started as two smaller fires north of Lake Hughes Road and triggered the closure of the freeway's northbound lanes, he said. There was no estimate for when lanes would be reopened.
About 3,400 lightning strikes have been reported since 1 p.m. in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.
“You should see it on my screen. It looks like a swarm of bees,” said Stuart Seto, a weather specialist for the National Weather Service in Oxnard.
In Santa Monica, city officials asked beachgoers to immediately evacuate all ocean areas and seek cover until the storm ended.
Triple-digit temperatures were the order of the day for many inland areas, and the weather service said numerous communities hit new high temperatures for the day, including Riverside and Ramona.
As thunderstorms moved through San Bernardino County to Los Angeles County, heavy rain pummeled parts of the Santa Clarita Valley, forecasters said.
In a tweet Thursday afternoon, the weather service warned residents, "Thunderstorms from Malibu to Santa Monica. People should leave the beaches and go indoors or in your cars immediately!!!"
Flash-flood warnings were issued for parts of the Inland Empire, including Riverside, Fontana and Rialto. Forecasters said lightning strikes were also likely.
Residents of Colton lost power Thursday after a lightning strike hit a power substation.
Even without the lightning, the heat continued to tax the power grid. The California Independent System Operator called for voluntary electricity conservation Friday.
In Boyle Heights, an estimated 11,000 residents were without power between Wednesday night and Thursday morning as high demand overloaded equipment to the point of failure. Power was restored by 6 a.m., officials said.
Southern California's heat wave should peak by Friday. But in Northern California, triple-digit temperatures will be continue through the Labor Day weekend. This is sparking concerns because there are already more than a dozen wildfires burning in the Sierra Nevada, and smoke is settling onto the people in the valley below.
6:20 p.m.: This article was updated with city officials in Santa Monica urging beachgoers to seek cover amid the lightning storm.