July is usually the driest month for Southern California, but this last weekend was certainly soggy. The leftovers of Hurricane Dolores brought a combination of thunder; lightning; and warm, heavy rain to Los Angeles that made everyone feel like they were in Miami, or New England, or anywhere but LA. The storm on Saturday brought a seemingly unimpressive total of .36 inches of rain to Downtown LA, but it was enough to break the previous record from 1886 (at 0.24 inch), a National Weather Service meteorologist told the AP. But while there's no doubt we can use all the rain we can get in Southern California, it did do some gross things too.
When Heal the Bay's beach report card came out in June with brag-worthy numbers for many LA-area beaches, experts said part of the reason for the cleanliness was the extreme drought; with less rain runoff to carry contaminants into the sea, the water was markedly less polluted. But storms on Saturday and Sunday brought what's called the "first flush" to SoCal beaches, says KPCC, essentially carrying the contents of the toilet bowl that is Los Angeles—trash, chemicals, bacteria, and other good stuff— into the pipes and out to the ocean.
That brought "a rare amount of pollution" to beaches—LA, Orange, Ventura, and San Diego Counties all warned beachgoers to stay away from the waves. (Runoff from a storm like the one last weekend can cause "stomach flus and rashes.") The rule of thumb to follow, apparently, is to avoid beaches for 72 hours after the rain stops.
Not all the unseasonal wetness went directly to the sea. The LA County Department of Public Works captured a whopping 245 million gallons of water (enough to supply 6,000 residents for a year), though a rep for the department did note that the storm was "nowhere near what we need to bring us back to our normal sort of reading for this time of year."
Adding to the "I thought this was LA, not Florida" feeling of the weekend weather, some "unusual" lightning shuttered beaches and knocked out power to as many as 10,000 LA Department of Water and Power customers on Saturday, KPCC says. Lightning struck and ignited a palm tree in Echo Park, which is doubly unusual in that the fire was not caused by errant illegal fireworks. The palm tree burned despite catching fire in the midst of the rainstorm, creating a pretty scary, apocalypse-ready image.
Lightning struck Echo Park: the view from my kitchen window. I think those palms are on Scott Av #LAweather #eastside pic.twitter.com/yYEA4TzjNC— Karen Tongson (@inlandemperor) July 18, 2015
The thunder is setting off car alarms in Los Angeles. pic.twitter.com/3eDWf3wC9r— Jesse Thorn (@JesseThorn) July 18, 2015
· California Freeway Bridge Collapses, Blocking Ariz. Traffic [AP]
· Storm brings significant rainfall, triggers pollution at beaches [KPCC]
· This Palm Tree on Fire in the Pouring Rain Pretty Much Sums Up LA [Gizmodo]
· The Three Dirtiest and Cleanest Beaches in Los Angeles [Curbed LA]