Wednesday, June 3, 2009

lightning strikes

USFS firefighters monitor blazes above Thurman Flat

By Guy McCarthy

MILL CREEK CANYON - Slow-moving thunderstorms unleashed scores of lightning strikes across the Inland Empire and the mountains today, killing a woman outside her home in Fontana and injuring a woman in Cabazon, authorities said.

In Big Bear Lake, winds or lightning snapped a large pine tree 30 feet above the ground, crushing a Chevrolet Suburban and killing the 31-year-old woman inside it, according to a fire prevention officer.

Lightning strikes also ignited more than 20 fires in the San Bernardino Mountains and wilderness areas, Forest Service firefighters said.

Forecasters said more thunder and lightning remain possible through Saturday.

"This is not the monsoon," said National Weather Service meteorologist Ted MacKechnie. "It's upper level low pressure that trapped a subtropical air mass over the ocean, and brought it over Southern California.

"The low will continue to move slowly inland," MacKechnie said. "Through Saturday or Saturday night."

Photo courtesy Big Bear Lake Fire Protection District

In Fontana about 4:45 p.m., a woman was under a tree in front of a house when she was struck and killed by lightning, Fontana police Sgt. Jeff Decker said in a phone interview.

Earlier in Cabazon, a woman in a parking lot was injured by a lightning strike close by. She was not struck by lightning, Cal Fire-Riverside County officials said.

By sundown, firefighters had dealt with more than 20 lightning-related fires in the San Bernardino National Forest today, including at least five in the San Gorgonio Wilderness, according to the Forest Service.

The largest was the McKinley Fire on Harrison Mountain, which burned about 150 acres above Highland before rains helped douse it, according to the Forest Service.

The Peak Fire, below San Bernardino Peak, had burned about 10 acres by sundown. Other small fires were reported out or contained near Oak Glen, Mountain Home Village, Lake Arrowhead, and Cranston in the San Jacinto Mountains.

Some fire crews were preparing to keep watch overnight on the most persistent of the blazes, and hoped to extinguish them before hotter, drier weather returns.

Unusual weather system west of Mill Creek Canyon

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