Venice Beach is a popular destination in Los Angeles because of its white sand and carnival-like boardwalk. After Sunday though, it's going to be known for something else.
A rare lightning storm hit Venice Beach at a time when over 20,000 people were in the southern portion of the area, changing what should have been a pleasant mid-afternoon at the beach into a scene of terror and panic. It lasted for around 15 minutes and injured 13 people, killing a 20-year-old man in the process. Eight of the injured were taken to local hospitals, including one teenager. Only one of them was listed as being in serious condition, a 55-year-old man who was surfing when the lightning storm hit.
Lightning strikes are rare in Southern California that's why it took the beachgoers by surprise. In fact, the West Coast registers the lowest number of lightning strike cases, with odds of being hit pegged at 1 in 7.5 million. At least four direct lightning strikes were recorded at around 2:20 p.m., according to National Weather Service's Stuart Seto.
Climatologist Bill Patzert with the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory said the lightning strike was due to an intense high-pressure system that drew unusual levels of hot and moist air from the California Gulf and Mexico and to the coastal areas. This created an unstable atmospheric condition that led to the lightning storm. Patzert adds that conditions that started Sunday's lightning attack will continue until Wednesday so it is advisable to say indoors. The National Weather Service issued a similar warning on Twitter.
Most of the injured were in the water or near the shore when the lightning strike happened. Stuart Archer was playing volleyball on the beach when he was struck by lightning. Paramedics on the scene have examined him and he is alright.
"We went about our game and then all of a sudden, there was a big flash of light and a boom, and it felt like someone punched me in the back of my head. It went down my whole side of my right body, and my calves sort of locked up, and I fell over. And I looked up and everybody else was, you know, falling over," he recounts.
Before Venice Beach, the same lightning storm hit Catalina Island around 90 minutes earlier, striking a 57-year-old man playing golf. Aside from injuring one, the lightning storm also started two small brush fires on the island.