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Photos, left, by Kathleen Hedberg:  Storm cell swoops toward La Mesa


By Miriam Raftery

September 16, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – A powerful storm lashed East County early Tuesday afternoon, causing major damage before moving across San Diego later in the day.  Thousands were left without power from at least 16 different outages in East County, SDG&E reported. Hardest hit areas included Rancho San Diego, Mt. Helix, La Mesa and Spring Valley.

Helix Water Board member Kathleen Hedberg captured dramatic images of the stormcell swooping toward her La Mesa home-- a downdraft from a thunderstorm that looked more like tornados seen in the Midwest than a typical southern California storm. Gusts of at least 50 miles per hour were reported, with coin-sized hailstones and sheets of rain pouring down.  It was all a result of Hurricane Odile which struck the Baja coast at 125 miles an hour, ,still packing a wallop by the time it reached our region.

The storm downed trees across the region, including one that struck a school bus and others uprooted at a shopping mall in Rancho San Diego. No injuries have been reported.

"It was really wild," said Hedberg, adding that high winds blew French doors open and knocked roofing tiles off her home. 

Driving on Mt. Helix, I was caught in the midst of the deluge.  On Fuerte, tree branches and palm fronds were hurled into the air, whirling around my car.  A large tree branch crashed down, narrowly missing my vehicle. Moments later on Grandview, a wall of water poured down, so much that it obscured visibility to zero, forcing me to pull over as water rushed past, momentarily flooding the roadway as a storm drain overflowed.

I arrived home to find patio umbrellas toppled and tiki torches that had gone airborn (photo, right).  Trashcans and pottery planters had tipped over and a wooden fence at our home sustained significant damage. 

Connie Lind, another Mt. Helix resident who lives on Tomiko Court, sent a photo of a 10-foot ladder that the wind blew into her pool. (photo, below left)

“Our neighbor’s nine-foot lawn umbrella took off, flew over the house, and left the neighborhood!” she wrote in an e-mail to ECM. “Our neighbors found their umbrella in the top of a tree.“ In addition, Lind said, “A tree fell in front of my husband’s van when he drove over to Murdoch Elementary to pick up our granddaughter.”

ECM reporter Leon Thompson saw a branch crash down next vehicle, dodging an obstacle course of debris as he drove through an unincoporated portion of Mt. Helix. 

A caller to KOGO radio reported seeing lightning strike a tree on El Cajon Boulevard. 

Shannon O’Dunn said the temperature spiked to 106 degrees at her La Mesa home near Harry Griffith Park, where she heard thunder and had gusts of wind she estimated at 40 miles per hour that knocked over large planters at her residence.

Our Bookshelf host on KNSJ, Reina Menasche, lives in the Rancho San Diego area. She reports, “I have a tree on my house, and my power is out.”

Power remains out in some portions of the county as SDG&E crews are working overtime to restore power.

Rebecca Williamson, co-host of our Destination East County segment on our radio show, was in EL Cajon when the storm struck.  She reports, “We were seeing trees bent over and just sheets of rain, literally. It felt like we were in the Wizard of Oz. It was so out of the ordinary that people were joking, `When do the houses and cows start flying by?’”

But in some communities, the weather remained clear and calm.  Ginny Burnight said she say only a handful of raindrops at her home in Crest.  “Although my friends in Rancho San Diego were `Singin’ in the rain,'" she reflects, Crest residents had 105 degree heat with only “pretty white clouds and blue sky.”

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I don't remember anything

I don't remember anything like it in La Mesa. Rode my bike up Mt. Helix this morning and portions of it--the landscape--were trashed. Two road signs, the kind mounted on pressure-treated 4X4s were snapped off at the base.

east county

Calling El Cajon and its environs "east county" is a never-ending source of amusement to those of us who actually live in east county, e.g. Boulevard, Jacumba etc. El Cajon is actually in the eastern part of incorporated San Diego county, west county, not in east county. The weather has been fine in east county, which one wag has referred to as "terra ingonita," and largely unreported on accurately, which is fine with us. Lots of smiles.

East County

Actually Mt Helix has portions of unincorporated El Cajon and unincorporated La Mesa. But the term East County is broadly used to include even the incorporated cities that are east of the city of San Diego. UT San Diego's East County section includes those cities, for instance. As for our publication, we take a regional approach and cover the entire inland region, since many communities in the inland areas don't get much if any news coverage elsewhere. Other media mostly covers on SD's downtown and urban areas, and the coast.