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Freak Rainstorm Soaks, Rattles Area

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Highly unusual June thunderstorms swept through the San Diego area Saturday, yielding record rainfall and resulting in traffic accidents, power outages, lightning strikes and road washouts.

In the most serious incidents, authorities say that highways slicked by the heavy rains may have contributed to two separate accidents in San Diego that left two people dead.

The storm, which began shortly before midnight Friday and continued throughout Saturday, featured pelting rain, streaks of lightning and bursts of thunder that awakened some sleepers.

The uncharacteristically turbulent weather temporarily delayed the beginning of the annual Gay and Lesbian Pride Parade in San Diego, but the event finally occurred under cloudy skies.

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Weather-related power outages, mostly caused by lightning strikes on equipment, affected between 75,000-80,000 customers throughout San Diego County on Saturday, said Fred Vaughn, a spokesman for San Diego Gas & Electric.

The single largest outage occurred at about 10:40 a.m., when lightning hit an electrical substation in San Diego and left many Mission Valley customers without electricity for about half an hour, Vaughn said. By 8:30 p.m., the spokesman said, only about 1,000 SDG&E; customers remained without power.

Accompanying the storm, which was caused by the remnants of Hurricane Boris, a mass of swirling air that traveled north via Mexico, was tropical-style high humidity that created uncomfortably muggy conditions atypical of semi-arid San Diego.

By 4 p.m., Lindbergh Field had received 0.38 inches of rain, a record for the date. San Diego normally receives less than one-tenth of an inch of rain during the entire month of June, which is the area’s second driest, after July.

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The region’s wettest spot was Mt. Laguna in far eastern San Diego County, which reported 1.25 inches of rain by late afternoon. Fallbrook recorded slightly more than half an inch, El Cajon somewhat less than half an inch, while Escondido experienced about a quarter-inch and National City reported 0.16 inches of rain.

Forecasters said that scattered showers, particularly in the mountains and deserts, are expected to continue through today before a return to drier, cooler weather Monday.

The two fatal traffic accidents were the most serious of a number of vehicle mishaps related to the storm. The California Highway Patrol was investigating both cases.

In the first, officials say a driver lost control of his car shortly before 10:30 a.m. as it headed north on a rain-slicked Highway 163. The vehicle ran off the road just south of the Quince Drive exit and proceeded over a muddy shoulder and onto a grass median before slamming into a palm tree, authorities said.

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The passenger, Anthony Luke Callegari , 21, of National City, was dead at the scene. The driver received moderate injuries and was listed in stable condition at Mercy Hospital.

A few minutes later, authorities said, a man attempting to change a tire on his disabled car on the left shoulder of westbound Interstate 8 was struck and killed by another vehicle that had spun out of control in the heavy rain. Excessive speed on the slick roadway may have contributed to the accident, according to an account provided by the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s office.

The victim, Brent Sherwin Martin, 31, of El Cajon, was dead at the scene, which was just east of the Waring Road exit off Interstate 8.

Witnessing the incident, officials said, were Martin’s wife and two young children, who were inside the car as the victim tried to change the right rear tire. No one else was reported injured.

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