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First of 4 Storms Packs Wet and Windy Wallop in S.D. : Weather: Power outages, rockslides and flooding result. Weaker storms expected through Saturday.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Mother of All Storms it was not, but the intensity of the first wave in a series of storms to hit Southern California may have caught San Diego County by surprise Thursday.

The first of four Pacific storms spawned a waterspout off La Jolla, rained pea-size hail on North Island, set off car alarms in Pacific Beach, then drove inland on winds ranging from 27 to 35 m.p.h.

In Valley Center, a woman swerved to avoid another car and drove her van over a 35-foot embankment into a rain-swollen creek off Lilac Road. The woman was rescued by passers-by about 5 p.m. and taken to Palomar Medical Center in Escondido, a Valley Center Fire District spokesman said. A nursing supervisor at the hospital said she was treated and released.

Elsewhere, gusts ripped the sail-like canopy covering the San Diego Convention Center, cut off power to more than 39,000 homes, sent rocks sliding onto rural highways and flooded streets and freeways.

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A second storm was expected to move in by this morning, followed by an afternoon break in the weather, according to Wilbur Shigehara, forecaster for the National Weather Service in San Diego. A weaker storm is expected to blow

by Saturday morning with light showers, and the fourth storm is awaited Saturday night. Forecasters say it is too early to predict how much rain that storm will bring.

With the return of the high-pressure center that has blocked storms from reaching Southern California for the past several years, winds will die down and skies will begin clearing Sunday, Shigehara said.

No fatalities were reported on the county’s roads, but gusts as high as 35 m.p.h. Thursday morning caused power outages from El Cajon to Encinitas.

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During the storm, 61 neighborhoods--mostly in the northeast and north coastal areas of the county--reported blackouts, said Laura Farmer, a spokeswoman for San Diego Gas & Electric Co. By Thursday evening, power to 51 areas had been restored, leaving about 15,000 customers still affected, she said. None of the outages lasted more than four hours, and power to the remaining areas was expected to be restored overnight.

As the storm intensified Thursday morning, up to 39,000 homes and businesses were without electricity at a given time, Farmer said.

The largest outages occurred in Encinitas, which had 9,000 customers without electricity; Del Mar, with 6,000, and Point Loma, with 8,000. In El Cajon, 2,000 customers were in darkness, and a pocket of 400 homes were reported to be without electricity in Hillcrest. Smaller blackouts were scattered throughout the county, Farmer said.

About noon Thursday, lifeguards stationed at La Jolla Shores spotted a waterspout about 1 1/2 miles offshore. The spout, caused by cold, unstable air, dissipated without causing any damage, Shigehara said. About the same time, pea-size pellets of hail rained on North Island.

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The California Department of Transportation reported rockslides and flooding that limited access to state highways countywide. On California 67 near Slaughterhouse Road in Ramona, a slide blocked part of the road, slowing traffic, Caltrans spokesman Tom Nipper said.

Slides were also reported on eastbound California 94 near Tecate and on California 78 near Banner Grade close to Julian.

Six to eight inches of water covered parts of westbound California 52 between Interstate 15 and Santo Road in Tierrasanta, officials said. The La Jolla Village Drive ramps to Interstate 5 were also closed and later reopened because of flooding.

Although the storm did not set any records in intensity and will not alleviate the five-year drought, it did bring rain to a parched county, Shigehara said. The most rain fell on Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, which received 5.10 inches between 4 p.m. Wednesday and 4 p.m. Thursday. During the entire storm, beginning at 7 a.m. Wednesday, the park received 5.42 inches. Palomar Mountain was close behind with 4.80 in the 24-hour period and a storm total of 5.35 inches.

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Lindbergh Field recorded 1.17 inches in the same 24-hour period, with a storm total of 1.64 inches. Chula Vista had 0.95 of an inch in the 24-hour period and a storm total of 1.35 inches. Coronado recorded 1.00 inches and 1.47 inches, respectively; Del Mar 1.33 and 1.81; Escondido 2.00 and 2.35; Poway 1.77 and 1.97, and Mt. Laguna 3.86 and 3.91.

Showers and wind gusts of up to 30 m.p.h. will continue through today and end late Saturday, Shigehara said.

The storm brings the season total for rainfall to 3.98 inches at Lindbergh Field, compared to 5.45 inches at this time last year and a norm of 6.64 inches. The weather season is measured from July 1 through June 30.

The long-range forecast promises little rain for March and April, Shigehara said. In the immediate forecast, beach temperatures today and over the weekend will range from 58 to 62. Occasional breakers of up to 7 feet are expected. The ocean temperature is 60 degrees.

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Coastal and inland valley temperatures will hover in the 60s, dipping to between 47 and 55 in the coastal areas at night and 43 to 53 in the inland valleys , Shigehara said.

The mountains can expect gusts up to 35 m.p.h., with highs of 38 to 48 degrees and lows of 30 to 40.

The deserts will see highs of 65 to 70 and lows of 48 to 58, Shigehara said.

SAILS DOWN: Winds tear the top canopy off the San Diego Convention Center’s $6-million Teflon-coated covering. B1

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SOUTHLAND SOAKED: This has been the biggest storm to hit Southern California inseveral years. A31


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