Wild thunderstorms hit San Diego County with 283 lightning bolts

Wild thunderstorms erupted across San Diego County on Friday, producing 283 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes as of 6 p.m. that hit locations as widespread as the flats of Mission Bay, the slopes of Palomar Mountain and the spiky treelines of Alpine, the National Weather Service said.

The electrical storm was so severe that San Diego International Airport was forced to briefly stop fueling aircraft. The San Diego Padres covered their infield with a tarp ahead of Friday night’s game against the Atlanta Braves, and concert organizers weighed whether it would be possible for the Little River Band to perform at Humphrey’s on San Diego Bay.

In La Mesa, a 50- to 60-foot-tall tree toppled over and stretched across Panorama Drive late in the afternoon, taking down live power lines and damaging a home. Heartland Fire Battalion Chief Sam Rihan told OnScene.TV that officials believe weather was to blame.

Flooding on State Route 94 in Spring Valley led officials to close westbound lanes at Via Mercado for a stretch during the evening commute, Caltrans reported. OnScene footage showed crews clearing mud from the road.


And shortly after 6:10 p.m. a transformer exploded in Spring Valley, a San Diego County Sheriff’s Department watch commander said, adding that lightning might have been the culprit.

“It’s pretty rare to have this type of thunderstorm pattern in the county at this time of year,” said Phil Gonsalves, a weather service forecaster. “We could get more” Saturday, he said.

The thunderstorms also produced significant rain in a county that’s received only about half of its seasonal precipitation.

By late afternoon, the airport had recorded almost half an inch of rain, pushing its seasonal total to roughly 5.22 inches. Point Loma got 0.56 inches. And parts of Palomar got drenched with 1.69 inches and hail the size of a quarter.

There were also reports of scattered heavy rains and small hail in parts of Orange County, mainly to the south and west.

The onslaught came at the end of a strange week in which Greater San Diego experienced Santa Ana winds, a heat wave, skies tinged by smoke from distant wildfires, thunder, lightning, rain and hail.