The first major storm of the season trickled eastward Thursday after setting rainfall records in Los Angeles and San Diego, while Southern California prepared to enjoy the first autumn weekend after a summer that never really arrived.
That unseasonable winter storm--born in the Gulf of Alaska and lured south by a major low-pressure area--dropped 1.95 inches of rain at Los Angeles Civic Center on Wednesday, which made it the wettest Sept. 24 on record, .32 of an inch above the previous record, set in 1939, the National Weather Service said.
Another .02 of an inch fell after midnight Thursday morning, bringing the season total to 2.15 inches--a whopping increase from the .19 of an inch that had fallen by this time last year, and 1.76 inches above the amount that would be statistically normal.
San Diego's rainfall broke a record, too. The weather service said .90 of an inch fell at Lindbergh Field between midnight and 11 a.m. Thursday, which was a new record for Sept. 25. The previous high water mark for the date was .47 of an inch, set in 1939.
In Orange County, Santa Ana received the greatest rainfall at 1.15 inches, while .63 of an inch fell in San Juan Capistrano, and El Toro received .29 of an inch.
Weather service technicians said more than two inches of rain fell in some parts of Santa Barbara County, while three to five inches were reported at various points in Southland mountain areas. But technicians explained that these figures are unofficial and no detailed numbers are available for statistical purposes.
Meteorological records were not the only thing damaged by the sudden storm:
Southern California Edison Co. and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power said that 65,000 customers were without power at one time or another, while the California Highway Patrol attributed more than 250 traffic accidents--including one crash near Newhall that claimed a life--to rain-slick pavements.
The Weather Service said that should be the end of bad weather for a while, though. A weak high-pressure area developed over Southern California on Thursday, producing a few gusty winds in the high desert and mountains, and meteorologists said the strong northerly flow of air that brought the Southland its rains--not to mention the recent cooler-than-normal temperatures--seems to be shifting to a more westerly pattern, which should produce slightly warmer temperatures and almost no chance of rain.
It was an unseasonable end for an unseasonable season. . . .
Weather service statisticians said the summer was considerably cooler than expected. In June, the Los Angeles average daily high was 81 degrees, a full two degrees below the normal average for the month, while the July average high of 83.4 was 5.4 degrees below the norm.
The average August high was back within a degree of normal, the statisticians said. But the highest temperatures were recorded on Aug. 18. That was when we had our only real summer "heat wave"--and the heat wasn't unbearable and it didn't last very long, which posed problems for anyone who was counting on a long, hot summer.
"I never got out of the red all summer long," said Mickey Marx, who has run a concession stand on Venice beach for the last 22 years. "Nobody rents a surf rider when the day is cool, and nobody remembers to buy suntan oil when the sky has a little overcast. . . . I talked to other guys up and down the coast, they all had it the same way. . . . How's a man gonna make a living?"
Lifeguards said his complaint was legitimate.
Beach attendance from Zuma to Newport was estimated at about 20 million in June and 22 million in July. August was back in the neighborhood of 30 million, according to unofficial estimates--but the season was short on hot spells and long on cool, partly cloudy days, and Los Angeles County Lifeguard James Deane called it "the most restful summer I can remember."
Utilities, too, felt the change.
Spokesmen for Southern California Edison and the Department of Water and Power said it was the first summer in several years that passed without at least one new record in peak demand for electricity.
"And while there aren't any reliable figures to prove it," said a Glendale merchant who asked to remain anonymous, "I will bet most stores' appliance sales--air conditioners, fans, coolers, that kind of thing--were off 20%, just like mine were."
He said Wednesday's storm gave him high hopes of selling a few water pumps and maybe even some electric space heaters as autumn deepens.
But the weather service offered little immediate encouragement. The high temperature in Orange County was 74 degrees in San Juan Capistrano, while it reached 70 in both Santa Ana and El Toro. Forecasters said it should be five or six degrees warmer today, with a rise to the low 80s expected by Saturday.
Times staff writer Gary Jarlson contributed to this story.