1 Killed, 1 Injured by Lightning as Freak Weather Wreaks Havoc in SoCal

Antonia Mendoza Chavez and her two dogs were killed while a woman pushing her baby in a stroller and walking her dog was knocked out by a bolt

The woman who was killed with her two dogs by a lightning strike in Pico Rivera Wednesday morning has been identified as 52-year-old Antonia Mendoza Chavez, authorities said on Thursday. 

Paramedics and police were called to the area of Rimbank and Mines avenues, near the San Gabriel River around 8:50 a.m., ABC7 reports. Pico Rivera City Manager Steve Carmona said Chavez was found deceased on the path with her two dogs after having been struck by the lightning as storms moved through Southern California in the morning.

Gloria Colocho, who said she was Chavez’s landlord, told the station that Chavez walked that trail every morning, and shared footage from her Nest camera showing what she claims is Chavez walking her dogs Wednesday morning.

“I called her and I texted her and she didn’t answer, and the message was not delivered to the cell phone,” Colocho said. “I called her and it went straight to voicemail, and from there, I had this feeling that it was her. I checked my camera … she left around 7:30 a.m. and I see her with her two dogs, and she left the house and she hasn’t come back at all.”

Unfortunately, Chavez was not the only victim of freak electrical storms in the area Wednesday.

The Ridgecrest Police Department says a woman who was pushing a child in a stroller and walking her dog at West Bowman Road and S. Norma Street was knocked unconscious by lightning.

According to a police statement, at about 7:40 a.m. officers found a Good Samaritan performing CPR on the lightning strike victim.

“As Liberty Ambulance and Kern County Fire arrived on scene, the victim regained consciousness and aid was rendered. The victim was transported to a local hospital for further treatment. During the investigation, it was found the victim was pushing a child in a stroller and walking their dog when struck by lightning. The child and dog were not injured.”

Weather station and detection company Vaisala reported that June 22, 2022 saw a total of 54,329 lightning events detected across California—the most in a single day since September 8, 2017, when 56,059 were detected, making Wednesday is the 6th highest daily total since 2015.

A death caused by lightning is incredibly rare, and Wednesday’s thunderstorms in Southern California have put officials on alert. Between 2006 and 2021, California had a rate of 6 to 15 lightning deaths, making the odds of being struck by lightning in a given year less than one in a million, according to the CDC

Beginning overnight after a heatwave that’s been broiling the are since early June, SoCal’s first major summer storm wreaked havoc with lightning, strong winds, and periods of heavy downpour. 

The storm was most severe in northern and eastern parts of Los Angeles, where the National Weather Service issued a two-hour Flood Advisory in Antelope Valley and adjacent foothills due to heavy rainfall at 1:30 pm. Nearby, lightning led to numerous reports of smoke and fire throughout Los Angeles County which were contained, as well as brush fires in Ventura County. The threat of lightning also caused the temporary closure of beaches in Newport Beach.

While some threats have expired, the National Weather Service continues to roll out new ones as weather conditions worsen. The agency also shared lighnting safety tips that include watching the sky for rapidly changing patterns, seeking shelter if thunder is heard, and avoiding swimming and boating.

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