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Rain, hail, lightning, thunder: Spring in Southern California isn’t supposed to be like this

VENICE, CALIFORNIA MAY 22, 2019-A couple walks near the Venice boardwalk in the rain during a spring
A couple walk near the Venice boardwalk in the rain Wednesday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Californians gearing up for a long Memorial Day weekend full of sun were sorely disappointed Wednesday.

Rain, wind and lightning battered the state as locals braved cooler temperatures that even delivered hail.

The hail may have had some residents questioning the point of living in Southern California if there is hail in late spring. The rain jammed up afternoon commutes, and lightning closed all beaches stretching from Dockweiler State Beach to Malibu for a little under two hours starting about 2:30 p.m.

“We could still see some lingering showers,” Kristen Stewart, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said of Wednesday’s wild weather.

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Stewart said there had been reports of lightning strikes throughout the San Fernando Valley and in Ventura County.

But it was the pea-sized pellets of hail and the thunderstorms in several Southern California communities, including Ontario and Yucaipa in San Bernardino County, that shocked people.

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Hail forms when strong thunderstorm updrafts carry water droplets above the freezing level. The freezing process forms hailstones, and eventually the stones become too heavy for the updrafts and fall to the ground.

Tiny bits of hail also littered lawns and residential streets in South Pasadena as a chilly low-pressure system moved through the area.

Samantha Connolly, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in San Diego, said that although hail isn’t uncommon in Southern California, it’s certainly unusual for this time of year.

“This is a very late-season storm,” she said. “These storms coming in from the north are pretty cold, which creates conditions that allows hail to form.”

Large swaths of the state, including parts of Los Angeles, have seen two to five times more precipitation than is normal for this point in May, according to the weather service. The rain in the southern part of the state has fallen as snow at higher elevations.

In San Bernardino and Riverside counties, there could be up to 4 inches of snow at elevations of 5,500 to 7,500 feet, according to the National Weather Service. Over the last couple of days, snow has dumped on the Sierra Nevada. Squaw Valley Ski Resort near Lake Tahoe saw 32 inches of snow in the last week, while Mammoth Mountain reported 22 inches at its Main Lodge so far this month.

Both resorts plan to stay open until July.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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