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California and the West

Summer Storms Jolt the Southland

Weather: A West Covina woman escapes serious injury when she is hit by lightning in her kitchen.


Marking the end of the record-breaking summer heat wave, sporadic storms accompanied by lightning struck Monday in Las Vegas, San Diego and other communities in Southern California and beyond.

The storm in the Las Vegas valley sparked a fire at the Palace Station Hotel and Casino, flooded streets and caused power outages to 25,000 customers.

Meanwhile, a lightning strike in West Covina gave a 40-year-old resident the shock of her life as she was about to get a drink of water from the kitchen faucet.

"She saw a bolt of lightning between the tree and the house and then a bright light as she felt something coming at her," said Brad Canepa of his wife, Arlene. "Then she felt a tingling on her left side."

She was transported to nearby Queen of the Valley Hospital after complaining of tingling along her back. Paramedics detected possible heart irregularities and were holding the woman overnight.

The lightning was caused by a storm that originated in the Southwest desert, said Jeff House, a meteorologist with WeatherData Inc., which provides forecasts for The Times.

"These summer storms are carried by winds from the east," House said. "The storms often peter out by the time they reach Southern California. But this one didn't."

The "monsoon pattern" that caused the lightning created an even stronger storm in the San Diego area, House said.

Lightning flashed repeatedly in the San Diego area amid warnings of sudden flooding after clouds quickly darkened the sky and rain began to fall north of the city. In a sign of the unsettled weather, sunshine and blue skies prevailed a few miles farther inland.

Normal temperatures are forecast for today and the rest of the week.

Monday's stormy weather was caused by moisture from the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico that coalesced over Nevada and Arizona, House said. Winds from the east swept the storm toward the coast.

It is unusual, however, for lightning to accompany a summer storm by the time it reaches Southern California.

And it was highly unusual that Arlene Canepa was struck by lightning because she was in a place usually considered fairly safe--a building. Most people struck by lightning are out in the open.

There were no visible signs of damage to the Canepa's stucco ranch-style home.

West Covina Fire Capt. Mike Wirtz said his department believes the lightning bolt struck the rooftop antenna of the Tonapah Avenue home about 8 a.m. Monday and traveled down a wire attached to a plumbing vent, to the sink where Arlene Canepa stood.

"I turned around and my mom was standing right here with her hands over her ears and she was just shaking and she was leaning against the stove," her son, Andre, said.

Family members said she does not recall touching the sink or faucet. All she remembers is a flash of orange and a white light from the direction of a tree.

"She told me she felt like she was struck in the side of head," said Tom Canepa, her father-in-law.

Brad Canepa, a Los Alamitos firefighter, was on duty at the time of the incident.

"My son called and said, 'Mom got hit by lightning!' " he said. "I thought he was joking, so I said: 'Put the paramedic on the phone.' And he did."

"She is lucky," he added. "She's tough. It will take more than that to slow her down."

Times staff writer Miles Corwin contributed to this story.

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