An afternoon storm brought a lightning strike, a fire and power outages to the Coachella Valley on Wednesday with one strike igniting a tree on East Tahquitz Canyon Way in Palm Springs.
The strike hit the tree adjacent to the Renaissance Palm Springs Hotel just before 2 p.m. By 2:20 p.m., the fire had been extinguished and did not spread to the hotel.
Near the intersection of Vista Chino and Gene Autry Way a fire also occurred in a vault underneath the roadway, Palm Springs Fire Capt. Nathan Gunkel said.
"The fire blew a manhole lid and ring right out of the asphalt," Gunkel said.
Gunkel said the fire, which had been extinguished, was likely behind power outages that had been reported in the area. He said the fire was the result of the rapid onset of the storm and that the department had been responding to fire alarms and other calls related to the storm.
In Cathedral City, an estimated 5,475 Southern California Edison customers were without power as of 3:20 p.m. SCE reported that a field investigator was en route to address the outage. The company was not reporting any other outages in the Coachella Valley.
The strike and fire were both the result of monsoon conditions that moved into the Coachella Valley on Wednesday. Palm Springs International Airport received 0.03 of measurable rain in its rain gauge.
One benefit of the clouds and wet conditions was that Palm Springs only reached a high temperature of 102 degrees, falling three degrees under its average high of 105. Thursday is expected to be hotter with a high near 108 and a 20% chance of precipitation in the valley.
The potential for wet weather is the result of a wind pattern that is bringing moisture up from Mexico and is typical of the monsoon season, which usually occurs in July and August. National Weather Service meteorologist James Brotherton said the moisture typically doesn't stick around long and is expected to move out of the area on Wednesday.
"The relative humidity will go up and the temperature will go down a little bit but if anything it will feel hotter since it's so much more humid than normal," he said of typical monsoon conditions.
Chance for rain comes after dry stretch
The last rain in the area fell April 22, when 0.02 inches of precipitation was recorded. However, Brotherton said such extremely dry weather is not unusual in April and May.
On Tuesday, the Whitewater Preserve announced on Facebook it would be closed because of the potential for flash floods and hazardous conditions.
Brotherton said that any flooding would likely be isolated due to the minimal amount of rain expected but that flash flooding could not be ruled out.
"Any time you get thunderstorms in the desert you can have flash flooding if you have the right setup," he said. "But it's not super likely [today]."
After Thursday, dry conditions are expected in the valley with highs between 105 and 110. The next chance for rain will come Monday, Brotherton said.
Pattern brings storms to Los Angeles
On the coast, the monsoonal pattern had caused thunderstorms in Los Angeles County, where the Associated Press reported thunderstorms "hurled lightning bolts and unleashed brief downpours in a display of weather not typical of June."
Southern California Edison reported power outages affecting more than 27,000 customers, mostly in Los Angeles County.
The National Weather Service said most rainfall was light but there were exceptions, including a cell over the San Gabriel Mountains in Los Angeles County where a gauge recorded nearly an inch of rain.
The lightning raised concern about the potential for fires in the drought-stricken region.
Paul Albani-Burgio covers breaking news and the City of Palm Springs. Follow him on Twitter at @albaniburgiop and via email at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Early monsoon conditions bring afternoon storm, lightning strike