Lightning Strike Suspected in Deaths of Woman and Dogs in Pico Rivera

Thousands of lightning strikes were reported by early Wednesday after thunderstorms developed overnight throughout Southern California.

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A woman and her dogs were apparently struck and killed by lightning Wednesday in Pico Rivera as rare early summer thunderstorms hammered Southern California, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Wednesday night, authorities identified the victim as 52-year-old Antonio Mendoza. According to her landlord, Gloria Colocho said the victim is a mother of two.

Mendoza was walking her two dogs just before 9 a.m. on a path near a riverbed at Mines and Rimbank avenues in the community about 15 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles.

"There were markings on the floor to indicate that some kind of powerful entity did strike the asphalt," said Morgan Arteaga, of the sheriff's department. "Obviously, this is a very rare occasion, but when the weather is kind of unpredictable, we always caution to stay inside where we know that it is safe, until the weather clears up."

Neighbors said they heard heavy thunder and saw frequent lightning flashes throughout the morning.

"She was probably on here daily routine, walking her dogs, going around the corner," said resident Jerry Renteria.

The city of Pico Rivera released a statement in which it said all city crews were ordered to work indoors Wednesday. The city also said it was sending out a lightning safety notification.

“This morning at approximately 9:00 am it was reported to the City by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department that a woman walking her two dogs along the San Gabriel Flood Control District was struck and killed by an apparent lightning strike," the city said in its statement. "The woman and her dogs perished as a result of the lightning strike.

"As a result of the inclement weather all city crews have been ordered to work indoors for the duration of the day. Additionally, the City is sending out a notification to residents to provide them with a warning to be careful. Today’s incident is a strong reminder that people and organizations must exercise extreme caution and stay indoors as much as possible during a thunderstorm. While lightning strikes are rare in Southern California, they occurred frequently overnight with over 3,700 lightning strikes recorded in the region."

According to the National Weather Service Storm Data, the U.S. has averaged 43 reported lightning fatalities per year over the last 30 years. The annual average was 27 fatalities from 2009-2019.

About 10 percent of people struck by lightning are killed, according to the NWS.

The odds of being struck by lightning in a given year is 1/1,222,000. The odds of being struck in your lifetime is 1/15,300.

The thunderstorms, caused by some monsoon moisture that moved into our area overnight, are bringing scattered rain showers and some dry lightning with them. The cloudy weather is also accompanied by a heat wave that will stick around through the end of the week.

While lightning strikes are rare in Southern California, they occurred frequently overnight with over 3,700 lightning strikes recorded in the region.

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