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Wild Weather Leaves Southland--for Now

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Greg Griego is still in shock, almost literally.

And his car’s melted antenna and charred bumper are a vivid reminder of Griego’s close encounter with lightning while driving on the freeway in the midst of a ferocious thunderstorm.

“All of a sudden I heard a loud explosion, then the whole car started glowing and smoke began to come out,” said Griego, who was not hurt in the episode Sunday night on the Pomona Freeway.

At first Griego thought someone with a gun had shot the car. When he realized what had really happened, one thought crossed his mind: “I’d better go back to church!”

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A wild weekend of weather it was, and not only for Griego. Through Monday, Southland residents were still facing the tail end of the coldest storm recorded this season.

The storm, which originated in the Gulf of Alaska, made for the wettest Los Angeles Marathon in history, hail the size of golf balls in Running Springs, a hailstorm in Long Beach and wind damage to a building at the Huntington Beach pier.

On Monday, the temperature in downtown Los Angeles--55 degrees at 1 p.m.--was well below Chicago’s 69 degrees and the 72 degrees enjoyed by people in Des Moines and Minneapolis.

“This is more of a wintertime storm rather than a March storm,” said Stuart Seto of the National Weather Service. It was so unusually cold, he said, that snow was recorded Monday morning down to the 1,500-foot level. Mt. Wilson recorded 8 inches of snow, Seto said, and an inch fell in Palmdale.

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Showers were expected to taper off by today, granting residents a dry election day before the next storm hits.

Monday rainfall in Los Angeles amounted to 0.04 of an inch, pushing the season’s total to 9.36 inches. Normal rainfall for the season to date is 11.51 inches.

A string of storms will continue to bring showers to the area well into next week, meteorologists said.

“We are looking at another storm on Wednesday, and [after that] one about every two days through next week,” he said.

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But the coming storm is not expected to be as cold, because it is coming out of the northern Pacific instead of Alaska, said Seto.

The weekend storms of snow, ice and hail continued in many locations well into the morning commute on Monday, creating more problems for motorists. A total of 107 accidents were reported in the Los Angeles area, none of them fatal, the California Highway Patrol said. That’s about 40% more accidents than the previous Monday, when it was also raining.

Two SigAlerts were in effect early Monday in northern Los Angeles County because of wintry conditions, slowing traffic into the late morning.

Meteorologists said that thunderstorms are unusual in Southern California, which averages about three a year. They said that during the weekend’s weather front, the combination of cold air and Pacific moisture produced optimum conditions for lightning and thunder.

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On Monday, Griego was assessing the lightning’s damage to his 1994 Lexus.

He said he will not hesitate to drive again during the coming storms. “It can’t happen twice.”


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