A surprisingly strong thunderstorm hit the Southland on Thursday, dropping hail, fraying nerves and sending three high school students briefly to the hospital.
"It's not the showers that were surprising," said Amy Talmage, a meteorologist for WeatherData Inc., which does forecasts for The Times. "It was the hail and lightning--the intensity of the storm."
The students were at Oceanside High School near San Diego when lightning struck an outdoor basketball court late in the afternoon. Although none was actually struck by the bolt, officials said, they were shaken up badly enough to be taken to a hospital, where all were treated and released.
"I would call this unseasonable for Southern California," Talmage said. In fact, she added, "I think something of this type is unusual no matter where it happens."
The storm had its origins, she said, in an upper-level pool of cold air that spent much of the week hovering harmlessly off the coast. On Thursday, she said, it meandered further south, where it was met by a warm subtropical jet stream that had been blown to the north. The result, Talmage said, was a sudden tropical-style storm that hit the San Diego area about 4:30 p.m. and wended its way north, sparking lightning, showering about 0.1 inch of rain through wide swaths of Southern California and dropping scattered, "rather small" hailstones.
The rainfall, she said, was two to three times heavier in the foothills than elsewhere. Temperatures ranged from 67 at Santa Monica Pier to 93 in Pasadena.
Officials at the Wild Animal Park in San Diego County were concerned enough by the lightning to herd visitors into protected areas. No injuries to human or beast were reported.
The good news, Talmage said, is that residents hoping to spend their weekend outdoors needn't change their plans. With the rain expected to subside by early this morning, she said, the day should be mostly sunny with temperatures in the low 70s to upper 80s.
The night will see patchy low clouds and fog, Talmage said, but it should give way to a mostly sunny, slightly cooler Saturday.
And low clouds along the coast on Sunday morning should once again give way to lots of sun and summer-like temperatures.
Times staff writer Tony Perry contributed to this story.