Two men who were struck by lightning at Venice Beach on Sunday described the sudden jolt they felt in the moments after a huge thunderclap.
Stuart Archer was playing volleyball when the midafternoon thunderstorm quickly materialized.
“We went about our game and then all of a sudden, there was a big flash of light and a boom, and it felt like someone punched me in the back of my head,” Acher said in an interview with KABC-TV. “It went down my whole side of my right body, and my calves sort of locked up, and I fell over. And I looked up and everybody else was, you know, falling over.”
At least four direct lightning strikes hit at about 2:20 p.m. as thousands of people were on the beach. A 20-year-old man who was pulled from the water was killed and at least seven others were injured, one of them critically.
A boogie-boarder who would only identify himself as Paul told KABC was knocked unconscious by the lightning strike while he was still in the water.
“I was in the water, I was boogie-boarding, and then next thing I know, I was trying to get my head above the water for air,” he said.
His partner and a friend were able to quickly pull him out of the water. He was treated and released at St. John’s Health Center later that night.
“It was a very bizarre incident. I mean, I wouldn’t have been in the water if I thought lightning was going to strike, so yeah, it was pretty scary,” he said outside the hospital.
Danielle Real, 15, and Paige Banaga, 13, said they were swimming off Fleet Street at Venice Beach when they heard an explosion and felt the water churn. Frightened, they swam to shore and saw people screaming and whistling for lifeguards as a man lay in the shore break.
All told, officials said, firefighters responded to medical complaints by 13 beachgoers, eight of whom were transported to area hospitals.
Authorities had not yet released the name of the 20-year-old man who was killed during the lightning storm.
Lightning from the same storm hit Catalina Island about 90 minutes earlier, injuring a 57-year-old man on a golf course in Avalon and igniting two brush fires, officials said.
The extremely rare weather event on Sunday occurred after an intense high-pressure system pulled an unusual mass of hot and moist air up from Mexico and the Gulf of California to the coastal areas, creating the unstable atmospheric conditions, said Bill Patzert, a climatologist with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
The possibility of a second round of lightning and thunder over the coastal areas was expected to linger through the morning Monday, before the weather system moves out and sets up over the region’s mountains, said Andrew Rorke, a senior meteorologist with National Weather Service.