The lightning, which illuminated the skies and rattled windows, blew several fuses in southern rural Patterson at about 9 p.m. Saturday, March 30. Many homes lost power temporarily and some remained dark until morning, according to Turlock Irrigation District spokesman Herb Smart.
Gil Hyder, a resident of South Del Puerto Avenue, lives in the same general area where lightning struck.
“All of a sudden I saw a bright light,” he said. “The windows started shaking, and all the lights went out.”
Hyder said he heard thunder almost immediately after seeing the flash of light and expected to see flames when he looked out the window. After the crash of thunder, Hyder said he saw five or six dogs running north on Del Puerto Avenue toward Sperry Avenue.
While it’s not known where the lightning landed, it damaged several Turlock Irrigation District fuses west of Highway 33 near Bartch Road, according to Smart.
“It is unclear if lightning actually struck TID equipment,” he said. “Lightning only needs to be in the vicinity of equipment to cause electrical problems.”
While Hyder reported losing power for less than a minute, a few other residents did not have their power restored until nearly 7 a.m., Smart said.
Bartch Road resident Victor Camacho said Monday that he went without power for three or four hours.
His friend Ramon Jara, a resident of McMurphy Court, said the storms were similar to those he saw in his native Mexico before he moved to California in 1967.
“In California, I’ve seen nothing like this,” he said.
While the National Weather Service reported that Modesto received 0.9 inches of rain during the weekend — 0.61 inches on Saturday and 0.29 inches on Sunday, March 31 — rain gauges in Patterson indicated less rainfall locally.
A gauge used by Del Puerto Water District collected about half an inch of rain during the weekend, while Patterson Lumber recorded 0.63 inches only on Sunday with no rainfall recorded on Saturday. Rainfall on Monday, April 1, dropped another .07 inches locally, according to Patterson Lumber records.
The weekend storms were caused by a strong low-pressure system with unstable air both in front of it and behind it, according to Stefanie Henry, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
Some of that instability resulted from unusually warm weather during the storms, Henry said. Modesto had a high temperature of 79 degrees on Saturday and a high of 72 degrees on Sunday.
Thunderstorms in California typically result from unstable air caused in part by sunlight, but the weekend storms were an exception, Henry said.
“To get nocturnal thunderstorms is really a rare event in Northern California,” she said.
Another storm that is expected to sweep through the Patterson area Thursday, April 4, could drop about a third of an inch of rain, Henry said.
• Jonathan Partridge can be reached at 892-6187, ext. 26, or email@example.com.