Sunday, September 13, 2009

Bay Area Lightning Storm

KABOOM! The thunder woke me at 3am Saturday September 12, 2009, here in Sonoma bringing lots of noise but little rain.

Lightning strikes in Sonoma County during a thunderstorm. The storm knocked out power to almost 50,000 customers. Photo: Kent Porter / AP


Lightning triggers power outages, fires
Kelly Zito, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, September 13, 2009


(09-12) 16:31 PDT SAN FRANCISCO -- As many as 350 lightning strikes across the Bay Area early Saturday knocked out power to nearly 50,000 customers in San Francisco and touched off at least 20 fires in the South and East Bay, according to authorities.

A thunderstorm that moved into the region after midnight brought a crackling light and sound show as well as pea-size hail to areas around Pacifica, according to officials with the National Weather Service in Monterey. Despite the tumult, most areas received less than a tenth of one inch of rain.

Though relatively rare in Northern California, thunderstorms are more common during the transition period between summer and fall, said meteorologist Brian Tentinger.

"We're getting into the season where it's more active after slowly drawing out of the summer doldrums," he said.

Residents throughout the Bay Area awoke in the wee hours Saturday to sounds they alternately described as rolling, roaring or smacking.

Darrell Tenaglia, 30, of the Castro district said he hadn't heard thunderclaps that dramatic since moving to San Francisco from Boston about a decade ago.

"I just wanted to sit and listen," he said. "It was great - it felt like home."

The storm, Tentinger said, resulted from a coastal low-pressure system that drew up more moisture than anticipated. It moved north and east out of the area by midmorning, paving the way for drier conditions late Saturday and early today.

Another system, bringing lower temperatures and more rain, is expected tonight and Monday.

About 47,000 customers in San Francisco lost power in a rash of outages early Saturday, though by early evening service was restored to all but about 200, according to Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

The largest outage affected 36,000 customers in parts of the Sunset, Glen Park and Park Merced neighborhoods. The lights went out at 5:13 a.m. and were restored at 7:28 a.m., said PG&E spokeswoman Brandi Ehlers.

A second outage that began at 5:27 a.m. resulted from a blown transformer that knocked out power to about 4,000 customers in Pacific Heights and Cow Hollow.

A third power outage hit just after 8:30 a.m. when a wire went down near Octavia Boulevard and Grove Street. That turned off power to nearly 7,000 customers in parts of the Western Addition and Laurel Heights.

Lightning strikes sparked at least 20 fires around the Livermore area and Mount Hamilton east of San Jose, officials said.

E-mail Kelly Zito at

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Lightning leaves a mark in Mill Valley as weird weather moves through Marin
Jennifer Upshaw
Posted: 09/12/2009 10:10:12 PM PDT


It would seem that lightning does strike twice. Three times, in fact, for the Andersens. The Mill Valley family of four got the shock of their lives Saturday when a single powerful bolt splintered into three - striking two giant redwood trees and carving a hole in a concrete driveway.

Early Saturday morning's wild weather left a mark in the 300 block of Summit Avenue, where the sleeping family was jolted awake just after 4 a.m.

When the deafening boom and blinding light show was over, the top half of an estimated 200-foot-tall redwood tree was nothing more than a living debris field, as bark, fir, branches and foliage exploded in all directions.

"You can see it's all furry, all the tanbark covered my wife's car," said Alex

Andersen, a 43-year-old carpenter, from the deck of his home as the family watched tree trimmers do what they could Saturday afternoon for the crippled tree. "It blew up like from the inside out -Êit shook the whole house."

"We thought it was a plane crash," recalled his wife, Windsor, as she held their 4-year-old son Sammy in her arms. "We were screaming. (Alex) kept saying, 'it's OK, it's lightning.' I was like, 'no, it's not (OK).'

Another nearby tree also was struck, but what truly astonished the family was the hole in the driveway.

"Souvenir," said son Teddy, 16, a junior at Tamalpais High School, as he held up a heavy chunk of concrete ripped from one corner of the driveway.

From north of the Golden Gate Bridge to Sonoma and Napa, more than 395 lightning strikes - and too many to count in Marin, according to forecasters - were reported early Saturday morning as temperatures plummeted from the 90s to the low 70s, creating an unusual weather spectacle with the mixture of warm and cool air.

The phenomenon is uncommon but not unheard of in the region this time of year, weather officials said. A system produced similar conditions as recently as late summer of 2007, the National Weather Service said.

The thunder-and-lightning storm in the early hours Saturday in Marin was blamed for most of the more than 5,600 electrical outages - 2,250 of which were in Fairfax, said Brandi Ehlers, a spokeswoman for Pacific Gas and Electric Co. Saturday afternoon, all but 17 customers, mostly in Mill Valley, were back up, Ehlers said. Service to all was expected to be restored by Saturday evening, PG&E said.

No fires were reported in Marin, and a red-flag fire warning was canceled Saturday. Counties reporting blazes included Lake and Napa, nine fires; Mendocino, two fires; Santa Clara, 17 fires; Amador and Eldorado, four fires; and Tuuolumne and Calaveras, eight fires, the state fire department said.

Cloudy skies with highs in the 70s was predicted for Sunday and Monday, with a chance of rain both days. Up to a quarter inch of rain could fall, weather officials said. Weather is expected to be more seasonal in the week ahead, weather officials said.

"The lightning threat is over for sure," National Weather Service meteorologist Larry Smith said. "The ridge moving in behind (Sunday's) trough, that will warm us up and get us to a drier, more typical weather pattern."

Rainfall totals for Marin included .03 inches in Point Reyes; .05 inches in Olema; .04 inches in Inverness and .04 inches in Novato in the 24-hour period beginning 4 p.m. Friday, according to the National Weather Service.

Contact Jennifer Upshaw via e-mail at

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1,500 lightning strikes ignite 81 fires, Cal Fire says
Bee Staff
Published: Sunday, Sep. 13, 2009 - 12:19 pm

The state Department of Fire and Forestry Protection said more than 1,500 lightning in northern and central California since Saturday ignited 81 fires - but state firefighters have contained nearly all of them.

It expects more fires because of the lack of rain and likely additional lightining strikes.

Daniel Berlant, spokesman, said the agency's Santa Clara unit is fighting 20 fires covering 200 acres that are 35 percent contained. The fires' progress has been stopped.

The agency's Tuolumne-Calaveras unit has fully contained the 200 acre Telegraph Fire near Cooperopolis and a 5-acre fire near Arnold.

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