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Woman, 2 dogs killed by lightning strike in Southern California

By Adriana Navarro, Accuweather.com
Woman, 2 dogs killed by lightning strike in Southern California
Wednesday's was the first recorded lightning death in the United States in 2022, and it happened far later in the year than normal. File Photo by Sethink/Pixabay

June 23 -- A woman and two dogs were killed by lightning while out on a walk Wednesday in Southern California, authorities said -- in the first known lightning death in the United States this year.

The lightning strike was reported near the San Gabriel River in Pico Rivera, a city roughly 10 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles.

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KABC-TV reported that authorities have identified the woman as 52-year-old Antonia Mendoza Chavez and her two dogs, Luna and Chubby.

"We don't see lightning deaths like this, it's rare," Pico Rivera Sheriff's Department, Detective Morgan Arteaga told KABC-TV.

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Chavez was known to walk that trail with her dogs at least once a day, landlord Gloria Colocho told KTTV-TV on Wednesday. When Colocho learned that a woman and her two dogs had been struck by lightning, she feared the worst.

"I called her and I texted her and she didn't answer, and the message was not delivered to the cell phone," Colocho told KABC-TV. "I called her and it went straight to voicemail, and from there, I had this feeling that it was her."

"Lightning strikes along the West Coast are less frequent than anywhere else in the continental U.S.," AccuWeather Meteorologist Brian Thompson said. "Since lightning happens so infrequently in this area, especially close to the coast, it can be easier to be caught off-guard by lightning."

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Despite this, the Southern California area was bombarded with lightning strikes on Wednesday as numerous thunderstorms moved across the region, though not all of the precipitation reached the ground.

"Over 5,000 lightning strikes have been recorded across Southern California from late Tuesday into Wednesday," Thompson added. "In just the 8 a.m. hour alone Wednesday, over 500 strikes were recorded."

An upper-level low drifting in from the west combined with some monsoonal moisture to produce the thunderstorms along the coast, Thompson said.

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Wednesday's was the first recorded lightning death in the United States in 2022, according to John Jensenius, a lightning safety specialist with the National Lightning Safety Council. And it happened far later than normal.

"Based on the past 10 years, the U.S. averages 6 lightning deaths by June 22," Jensenius said in an email. "This is the latest in the year that the first lightning death has occurred. Previously, the latest date had been June 9, 2021."

Last year, 11 lightning deaths were recorded in the United States.

Earlier this year, a father and daughter who were struck by lightning outside of a spring training game in Tampa, Fla., told AccuWeather about their frightening experience. They'd been walking to their car after the game was called off due to thunderstorms, and the area had been under a severe thunderstorm watch.

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After two days in the hospital, John Moberg and his daughter Ashley returned home.

"You never think something is going to happen to you," Moberg told AccuWeather, "and you should heed the warnings from the weather and anyone else of what to do and what not to do."

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