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Extreme heat, intense rain and lightning hit Southern California

Six brush fires in northern Los Angeles County were sparked by lightning Wednesday as another day of powerful thunderstorms and high heat swept through Southern California.

Scattered storms were dumping heavy rains in parts of Orange County as well as the mountain and high desert areas of Los Angeles and the Inland Empire. Several flash-flood warnings were issued.

In Agua Dulce, a mudslide was reported after an intense downpour there. Some beaches were closed in Orange County when lightning was seen in the area. A man and woman in Santa Ana had to be rescued from a flood control channel after waters swiftly rose, authorities said.

Lightning strikes sparked fires in Saugus, Valencia, Castaic and Canyon Country. 

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One fire of particular concern was burning near the Pitchess Detention Center, and fire officials were seeking air support to protect structures.

Engine strike teams were sent to parts of northern L.A. County to watch  for flooding and lightning in the area, said Los Angeles County Fire Department Supervisor Cheryl Sims. 

The hot conditions helped spark a small brush fire in Malibu, which was quickly brought under control by firefighters.

Lifeguards in Huntington Beach asked visitors at Sunset Beach to grab their belongings and head to a safe area after lightning strikes were spotted two miles inland, Marine Safety Lt. Claude Panis said. The Huntington Beach Pier and Sunset Beach were evacuated and remained closed Wednesdayafternoon.

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“Our prime concern is public safety,” he said.

Lightning also prompted lifeguards in Long Beach to briefly close beaches there, according to the Long Beach Fire Department. After the storm passed, the beach reopened about 6 p.m.

The extreme weather left one man dead Tuesday in a flash flood.

The man was swept away during a sudden, heavy downpour in Forest Falls, the San Bernardino County Fire Department said. His body was found in Mill Creek Wash.

Rain dropped at a rate of at least an inch an hour, said National Weather Service forecaster Miguel Miller.

“It’s a downpour. It’s a cloudburst. Big drops, a whole lot of ‘em,” Miller said Tuesday. “It’s running across impermeable surfaces and not even soaking into the permeable surfaces. It’s piling up in places it can’t drain.”

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Along with Tuesday’s fatality,  huge swaths of Riverside and San Bernardino counties were affected by the extreme weather. Lightning strikes hit power poles in the Antelope Valley in northern Los Angeles County, knocking out power to thousands of customers and sparking a brush fire as temperatures approached triple digits.

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In Victorville, cars were swept away and one man was hoisted out of fast-moving runoff. Big Bear Valley Road was buried in five feet of water, the National Weather Service said.

The extreme weather is likely to reappear Wednesday and Thursday, Miller said.

“All the ingredients are there for a repeat of yesterday,” he said Wednesday.

In areas not slammed with rain, people baked in 90- and 100-degree heat with little wind and high humidity.

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“Temperatures will be high enough to create possible health risks” for the young and old, the weather service said.

Those vulnerable to the heat should stay indoors, drink plenty of water and wear light clothing. For residents in areas where thunderstorms are expected to hit -- the high desert, mountains and the Inland Empire -- people should remain indoors if a flash flood warning is issued, forecasters say.

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna.

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