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Rain Puts Damper on Surf Contest

Times Staff Writer

Bummer, dude. Rain.

At the height of summer, when umbrellas and jackets have been forgotten and sunscreen and sandals rule, a freak storm gave Huntington Beach surf-contest promoters heartburn.

Crowds vanished in the pounding rain, but the competition went on.

“The rain didn’t affect the waves at all,” said Mike Kingsbury, a U.S. Open of Surfing promoter who was at the beach before the first heat at 8 a.m. “Everybody just powered through the rain.”

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A thunderstorm fueled by subtropical moisture from the Gulf of Mexico swept in from the southeast, causing the humidity to reach 87% at John Wayne Airport, said Noel Isla, a National Weather Service meteorologist. But the rain was barely measurable. Newport Beach and Anaheim had less than a quarter of an inch, 0.04 and 0.15 respectively.

In several south Orange County cities such as Mission Viejo and Irvine, there were reports of hard rain, but the weather service did not have those figures.

The showers of the past few days were the first in Orange County since May 2.

Typically, roads and freeways are saturated with oil that becomes slippery when combined with water, resulting in numerous accidents, said California Highway Patrol Officer David Ferrer.

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“There was heavy rain down in the southern portion [of the county] and we had several SigAlerts down there,” Ferrer said.

The storm system is supposed to linger through today with a slight chance of more moisture.

Temperatures are expected to be comfortable with highs of 76 on the coast to 90 degrees inland, Isla said, with humidity dropping to 50%.

Huntington Beach has been dressing up its downtown area for months in preparation for the annual U.S. Open of Surfing and to highlight its resort hotels.

Mayor Connie Boardman got pelted by rain while walking from her car to City Hall early Wednesday. “I don’t even know where my umbrella is,” she said.

But Boardman put a positive spin on the weather and told a reporter who telephoned her in the afternoon: “Look out your window. It’s beautiful. The sun is shining. There are blue skies.”

At the Hyatt Regency, outdoor luncheon plans for guests and several groups were rapidly changed to more comfortable indoor accommodations, then changed again when the rain dissipated, said Bob Wentworth, director of sales and marketing.

“We had several groups planning luncheons for the courtyard, but we always try to have backup plans. Luckily, we skirted this [storm],” he said.

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By late morning, beach visitors such as Cinde Stevens and her 14-year-old twins, Shane and Corrie Scott, arrived at the beach with their arms full of towels, boogie boards, sodas and bags of chips.

Stevens said she left her Chino Hills home at 9 a.m. when the weather there was hot and sunny. By the time she hit the county line, the windshield wipers came on and instead of continuing, she got off the freeway.

“We decided to eat breakfast and let it pass over us,” she said.

Orange County isn’t the only place that’s been hit by unseasonable weather this week. In Lancaster, gusts of up to 65 mph Tuesday uprooted hundreds of trees, bent a billboard and snapped 27 utility poles, leaving 4,800 customers without power, authorities said. Tree limbs fell onto houses and parked cars, but there were no reports of major injuries.

The high winds and heavy rain abated Wednesday morning, giving firefighters and maintenance crews time to remove debris from streets and driveways before another storm moved through in the afternoon, said Dennis Davenport, Lancaster’s assistant city manager.

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Times staff writer Karima A. Haynes contributed to this report.


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